GalleyMatch book clubs preview advance reading copies (ARCs, also known as galleys) from a variety of publishers. Below you’ll find the titles book clubs have recently enjoyed reading and discussing along with highlights of their discussion and selected menus from their meetings.
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The Carrollton (Texas) Book Buddies, Mom and I of Carmichaels Pennsylvania, and Wine PW Bloggers SOBREMESA: A Memoir of Food and Love in Thirteen Courses (Scribe, 5/21)
In her coming-of-age adventure, Josephine travels to her family’s homeland of Argentina in search of belonging—to family, to country, to a love, and ultimately, to oneself.
Carrollton Book Buddies: "The ingredients of multiple generations and memorable food; seasoned by bonds of love, make SOBREMESA an inspiring culinary and reading experience."Family traditions sparked a lively discussion on childhood memories; especially events where parents and kids were participants. The Gentleman Caller led to lots of sharing involving ghosts, angels, and signs in different times of our lives. Our overall feeling was nostalgia-for holiday or vacation traditions spent with family and the memories those evoke.
"We were surprised at the energy and time invested in cooking for Josephine's family as children, then later at the estancia in Argentina. Dorita and Poupee were amazing in the kitchen! The recipes and memories shared in the book are proof. The transcontinental travel involved was also costly emotionally and financially. This memoir was a different genre for our group, but it's always good to expand reading boundaries."
Menu: We loved the food! For our sobremesa, recipes from the memoir, including Hearts of Palm Salad with Orange vinaigrette dressing, Empanadas, Grilled Chicken, and mushrooms- Desserts: Dulce de Leche Gelatin, also Alfajores, & Besitos from a local bakery, Argentinian Malbec wines, also guest take away gifts: muslin bags of chimichurri seasoning and the recipe for the marinade. The Dulce de Leche Gelatin flower molds were a feat!
My Mom and I: “Josephine is so close to her family, we knew she’d appreciate having a part in our own Sobremesa. Food is love in our family. Cooking and sharing food is as important to us as it is to Josephine.”
“This foodie memoir was a good match for us. We loved to talk about the food and recipes and especially enjoyed that recipes are included in every chapter. Most were recipes we’d enjoy and all were interesting. We got an enormous kick of Josephine considering Pittsburgh a home! We both live about an hour from Pittsburgh so the local references were a fun touch.
We talked about family—Josephine’s and ours—and how we can relate to Josephine trying to perfect her grandmother’s dulce de leche recipe with practically no help from her grandmother lol We can both relate to women in our family not being able (or willing!) to share the exact, treasured recipe but who important it is to recreate it. You kind of have to find a way to keep that recipe, sometimes recipes outlive the person themselves. It’s our way of bringing a piece of them back, keeping them at the table with us for important days and holidays."
Menu: “We made the mushroom sandwiches and loved them. We were delighted that we got to try Josephine’s homemade dulce de leche,a huge treat! We put it on top of vanilla bean ice cream and it was wonderful.
Links to all posts with recipes here
“What as a treat to read. In fact, I've read it more than once already. It's an immigrant story. It's a love story. It's also about loss and grief as her mom dies unexpectedly. But life goes on, babies are born, and we continue to make connections with each other over shared meals.”
“While the focus of the memoir is on familial and romantic love, the tidbits I found most tantalizing were the indispensable tips on making authentic Argentinian food, which deepened my understanding of the cuisine. SOBREMESA succeeds by delivering an Argentinian memoir of food and love in 13 courses with heirloom family recipes.”
“As stories go, Josephine's is an intriguing tale of the spiritual world mixed into her daily life. Childhood in America, a stint in Argentina along with a romance that led her to make a family with the love of her life, lasting bonds with extended family in Argentina, return to America, and her business, all with the continued presence of her ancestral spirits and people dead and alive that influenced her life in so many ways. Read the book to find out more!”
“This robust memoir portion leads readers through Josephine’s personal journey including her childhood, coming of age, parenthood, and marriage. The author seamlessly incorporates a selection of recipes that mirror the storytelling's texture with a charming and humorous flair. For example, Milanesas (beef milanese) will serve seven people, “maybe, if you hide them well enough.” The author has a knack for showing emotion in endearing ways that make the reader feel like they are a part of the scenes as they unfold, particularly in her descriptions of the cast of “characters” which I loved learning about the concept of sobremesa, which is the shared experience of enjoying a meal and conversation with loved ones. Though this story is indelibly focused on the author’s own heritage — she was raised in Pittsburgh with an Argentine background and culture — the concept is can be translated to any group of people that care for one another."
Reading Between The Wines Book Club of Albany, New York
OC BooksandBrunch Book Club of Lake Forest, California
DARK ROADS by Chevy Stevens (St.Martins Press, 8/21)
Taut, chilling, and heartbreaking, Stevens's most breathtaking thriller yet.
Reading Between The Wines: "Stevens’ STILL MISSING was a book club favorite, so we jumped at the chance for an early read DARK ROADS, about a girl, Hailey, that vanishes from her small town. Everyone thinks she’s a victim of the highway killer who’s been at large for decades. A year later, Beth shows up in town, determined to find out what happened to her sister Amber, and Hailey.
"The book has an immersive sense of place and the descriptive writing made us feel like we were in the British Columbia woods! This thriller keeps you on your toes, and surprises you with a satisfying ending.
We were invested in Hailey's story. We had not guessed who the killer was but the reveal was well done and made sense. The author did a great job ratcheting up the suspense. We love thrillers and this was a great match. We all enjoyed the book and the author's writing style.
Menu: "Many scenes in the book take place in the local diner— especially breakfast— we served breakfast for dinner: mini quiche, bacon, hash browns, fresh berries, and a lemon chess pie. We also made a pitcher of Sea Breezes, a perfect brunch drink."
OC BooksandBrunch: "A great match, especially for the thriller lovers in our group"This book is divided into three sections. In Part One we discover the disappearances of various young girls who were last seen on Cold Creek Highway but no killer has been found. Part Two switches to another narrator, and in Part Three is everything comes together in a suspenseful and thrilling way.
"We agreed that the police officer was such a despicable character, which brought up an interesting discussion of how some people use their authority to manipulate others. On the other hand, Wolf was such an interesting addition to the story. We also admired the determination of the main character, Hailey, and how resilient and brave she was to have faked her death and to have survived by herself living in the middle of nowhere. We also enjoyed the friendship between Hailey and Jonny."I loved the suspense that was created in the first few chapters.I learned that this book is loosely based on the real stories of the Highway of Tears in northern British Columbia which gave me chills! We had a fantastic meeting and the food, the company, and the conversations were amazing!"
The Sensational Seven Book Club and the Fabulous Six Book Clubs of Appleton, Wisconsin
Get Woke Book Club of New Prague Minnesota, Mountain Meadows Book Club of Renton, Washington, and Pittsburgh Chick LIt Book Club of Pennsylvania
SPIN: A Novel Based on a (Mostly) True Story by Peter Zheutlin (Pegasus, 6/21)
Ride away on a 'round-the-world adventure of a lifetime—with only a change of clothes and a pearl-handled revolver—in this transcendent novel inspired by the life of Annie Londonderry
The Sensational Seven Book Club: “What a story Peter Zheutlin told, what a fascinating woman. and such a beautifully written story! We had an animated conversation like no other, with many opinions about Annie’s choices and how her decisions shaped the person she became."
"We loved the beautiful cover of Annie on her ‘wheel’ and the simple, perfect title. seeing the cover and the title made us anxious to dive into SPIN! The book prompted such great discussion. At the young age of 23, she made the bold decision to take up the daunting challenge of biking around the world. How many of us would ever even think to attempt this feat? The author based the book on ‘a mostly true story,' but what a story he told through a letter from Annie to her granddaughter, Mary. What a creative take on Miss Londonderry’s tale! He authored the book in such a beautiful way that you could often visualize the sights and scenes as Annie navigated her way across the world on her bicycle.
"We agreed that although Annie is a champion and a woman truly ahead of her time, it was difficult to approve of her choice to leave her husband and three young children for 15 months. One of the reading guide questions prompted a long discussion about Annie’s character: She was charismatic, driven, courageous, and adventurous. Could we look beyond so many of the choices she made and deem her a ‘likable’ character? Peter Zheutlin’s great-grandaunt was a character not soon forgotten by any of us and one who provided our book club with an animated conversation like no other!
Fabulous Six Book Club: “Written from the viewpoint of Annie, in a letter to her granddaughter, was the perfect way to tell her story. After all, SPIN is "A Novel Based on A Mostly True Story."
An engaging and quick read, SPIN is laced with bits of American history during the time Annie was biking around the world in the 1890s. She encountered several well-known people, such as Susan B Anthony and Annie Oakley. So why have we heard nothing of Annie's feat before? Peter Zheutlin skillfully took us on Annie's journey using a letter that she has written to her only Granddaughter, Mary, and was able to capture her feelings, her awareness, and why made some of her decisions. Both Annie and the author tell us to decide for ourselves what to believe and what is imagined. If not for the author's research and tenacity, the story of Annie Londonderry (Annie Cohen Kopchovsky) likely would have been lost. Our discussion revolved around Annie, women's issues, and the press. We decided that even during Annie's time, the press played an important role in promoting her and her journey.
Annie was ahead of her time. Every idea of what a woman ‘should’ be during the 1800s— she was not. She seemed aware of the fact that what she was doing would be frowned upon. We had good discussions regarding women and motherhood. Members were not fond of the choices that Annie made in her life, while others thought she felt trapped and had non-maternal instinct. Annie wasn’t suited for the traditional role of wife and mother and didn't deny it. At the first chance, she set out on her adventure around the world on a 42 -pound Columbia bike. To do this, she gradually changed her persona. Annie spun embellished tales on her trip.
Having never heard of Annie and her "Round-the-World" adventure, it was fun to do some additional research using d links provided via the author's Reading Guide and website. How is it that her family didn't know more of her story? The Author's Note explained that this family story had been lost. and gave insight into Annie's decisions. I appreciate the commitment made by the author in researching Annie, and that we are encouraged to imagine which parts of her story are true. You'll find Annie quite fascinating!”
Get Woke Book Club: "Read SPIN! You will be happy you went on the ride! As the wheels on Annie’s bike turn, readers are entertained with tales of adventure, imprisonment, romance, and danger. Annie’s contribution to the women’s movement made our members fortunate to have gone on the ride with her.” Our first in-person meeting in over a year was held at Next Chapter Winery. In honor of Annie, we rode bikes to the winery, and faced many dangers on the way! SPIN is based on the life of Zheutlin’s great-grandaunt, Annie Londonderry, who at age 23 in 1894 pedals around the world on a man’s one-speed bike, earning room and board as she travels. In the first paragraph Annie, a.k.a. Annie Kopchovsky, reveals that she is not the ‘most reliable witness to the events of [her] own life,’ alerting readers that her penchant for ‘spinning’ was not confined to the bike. Let the ‘spinning begin’! We were amused and captivated by Annie’s stories. Did 500 people really attend Annie’s send-off in Boston? Did Annie log 10,000 miles on her one-speed, man’s bike? Did Annie perform in the Wild West show with Annie Oakley? These questions were spinning through our minds as we read."
"The important message behind Annie’s life and adventures: In an arranged marriage with an older man, the mother of three small children was the family’s breadwinner. Annie tells us that she was not the only woman of her era to be overwhelmed by her responsibilities, but she was able to ‘break free.' We felt we would not have left our children as Annie did, but understood the pressures and expectations placed on women of the era. Annie’s resourcefulness, spunk, and courage made her a ‘symbol for an entire generation of women and a symbol of the struggle for women’s equality.' The invention of the bicycle emancipated women, and drastically influenced a redesign of their clothing. Annie’s ability to 'ride' this new movement was more important than any actual miles spent on her bike."
"We played ‘Fact or Fiction,’ a game combining Annie’s stories with facts from Zheutlin’s biography of Annie, Around the Word on Two Wheels Each card featured an Annie story that prompted discussion about its veracity. The flip-side provided factual information. Annie’s tales had our heads spinning and judgments faltering. Events we labeled as fact were fiction, and vice versa. Trust us, Annie’s stories are worth the read. 125 years after her momentous trip, she is reveling in the attention that her stories continue to generate. As one member said, ‘This was over 100 years ago, and women are still fighting some of the same battles.'"
Menu: "Annie suggested that Colonel Pope greet her whiskey. We identified as 'Kindred Spirits' with Annie with the winery’s whiskey.
Mountain Meadows Book Club of Renton, Washington "A good match for a book club of independent and adventurous women. SPIN: A novel based on a MOSTLY true story told us we'd be reading a biographical account of an interesting woman with a little bit of artistic license thrown in. A global sensation in the 1890s, the story of Annie Londonderry was mostly forgotten: In 1895 The New York World declared Annie’s round-the-world bicycle tour “the most extraordinary journey ever undertaken by a woman.” A hundred years later, the extraordinary journey of discovery Peter undertook to bring this story to life is just as fascinating.
Discussion highlights included our fascination with how the story of Annie came to the author's attention and what kind of providence? fate? luck? started the chain of events that ended with this interesting story. Sorting through Annie's truth to try to imagine what the actual situations would be like was interesting. A woman of her time being able to self-promote and control her own narrative was very impressive -even if it meant embellishing the truth. No man (then or now) would think embellishing the truth for promotional purposes is even the slightest bit scandalous. We were left wanting to know more about Annie. Tons of Googling and Wiki searches were our norm."
Very few books compel the reader to want to know more about the origins of the story. After reading SPIN I not only craved more information about Annie Londonderry, but dare I say, I wanted to learn so much more about the circumstances that brought this book into being. The story behind the story captured my imagination as much as Ms. Londonderry herself.
A series of events led Zheutlin to discover the details of his family’s history from a second cousin. Deep in her basement are boxes filled with forgotten family secrets and history. After extensive research and time piecing together the puzzle, he has created a novel, mostly based on fact, of this amazing woman, Annie Londonderry.
"We highly recommend the book, and suggest you check out the author's 2008 account of Annie Londonderry’s extraordinary ride Around the Word on Two Wheels.”
Pittsburgh Chick LIt Book Club of Pennsylvania: "A winner! We thoroughly enjoyed SPIN. Annie motivated us to dust off our bikes and travel local bike paths this spring. We may just call ourselves the ‘Annie's Girls’ as we bike around our neighborhoods.
‘Annie didn't run away to join the circus. Annie became the circus.’ Author Peter Zheutlin 's comment summarizes our book discussion. Peter joined our discussion and provided insight on the research and writing. It's difficult to believe that a 23 year-old, married woman with three children, would leave her family for over a year to bicycle around the world—over 100 years ago. Annie Kopchovksy, who assumed the name Annie Londonderry for her adventure, learned to ride a bike, plotted biking routes, handled the logistics of traveling between stops, and financed her adventure primarily by giving lectures and working odd jobs while on her trip. Our complaints about commutes and business trip delays pale in comparison to Annie’s challenges as she biked around the world. While the author admitted it is difficult to separate fact from fiction in Annie's stories, the route she traveled is accurate and indicates a woman with a strong desire to succeed. A master of self-promotion, Annie notified journalists before arriving in a city and worked with them to get her story published in newspapers.
"It surprised us that Annie was a sensation not only in the countries and cities that she visited but also in places to which she never traveled. The world delighted in her sensational stories. While she may have embellished her accomplishments, it was clear she was not afraid to be herself and to be recognized for her success. We appreciate stories about women who overcame difficulties to achieve their dreams/goals."
Cork & Olive Book Club of Valrico, Florida, KC Book Club of Kansas City, Missouri, Fab Six Book Club of Appleton, Wisconsin, Books N Cooks of Elk Grove, California
THE GLORIOUS GUINNESS GIRLS by Emily Hourican (Grand Central, 5/21)
A novel imagining the story of the Guinness Girls, the daughters of the Guinness founder
Cork & Olive Book Club of Valrico, Florida: “The book had so much depth that it sparked plenty of discussion outside of the questions that were provided.
"A great match! It was easy to set a theme for our meeting and The book is very well-written and we enjoyed the storytelling. It was especially unique to read it from Fliss's point of view. Hourican did a great job of introducing the Guinness sisters to us but also Fliss, who we all loved Fliss!
"Our favorite question: which of the sisters each of us related to. It was fun to talk about each sister, what we had in common, and how several of us are a combination of all three girls. We wondered why Fliss was not included as an option—many of us related to her.
"We also discussed Ireland and the IRA. Not many of us are familiar with that period in history."
Menu: Irish treats: Shepherd's Pie, Guinness Chocolate Cake, Guinness Bread, Irish Tart, Guinness Cheese with Pretzels, Black Velvets (Guinness and Champagne), and Baby Guinness (Coffee liquor and Irish Creme)
KC Book Club of Kansas City, Missouri: "We were excited about a historical fiction book set in Ireland, as members have traveled there and love the country. This book was a lovely surprise.”It shows the divide between the working class and wealthy and very entitled high society of the interwar period, the aftermath of World War 1, and the excess and debauchery of the Roaring 20s that came down with a crash when The Great Depression hit at the end of 1929. The Guinness Girls were staggeringly wealthy, beautiful, but were they happy?
"With the story beginning in 1918, several members were surprised that the 1918 Flu Pandemic was not mentioned, and also that the book focused on Fliss, and the Guinness sisters and family were secondary characters. Members liked the Irish Revolt history, an aspect of British history that we don't know much about as Americans. The history that included something of the Irish Civil War was fascinating. The group agreed that the Guinness Girls lived in a very gilded cage and the Roaring 20s party scene was excessive and shallow. The expectations for the girls to marry well, contrasted with the fulfilling careers that Fliss and Mildred have compared with the 'good' marriages and no possibility of a career for the sisters and other members (male and female) in the aristocracy during that period.”
Menu: "We enjoyed Rumchata Banana Pudding cups for dessert. Not exactly Irish, but a 'pudding'!"
Fab Six Book Club: "Hourican interweaves the Roaring 20s, the civil unrest in Ireland, and the impact on the characters with the story of the Guinness sisters and family.”-The novel introduces each of the three sisters and heirs of the Guinness empire. While they lead a glamorous life, we are also introduced to the post-World War I aftermath and growing divide related to social issues. Hourican does a good job of giving us the history of that time. Felicity, "Fliss,” the narrator of the story, is enjoyable as she tells the story of the sisters as an outsider looking into their world, and was a favorite character, although the three sisters each take on a life of their own through Hourican's writing.
"We discussed the lives the Guinness Girls led; clothes, parties, and carefree attitude that their wealth afforded them. Telling the story from Fliss's point of view was effective: the reader has the perspective of seeing others as an outsider. There are many twists and turns in this story.”
Menu: "Cheese, crackers, and veggies, all served on St. Patrick's Day plates."
Books N Cooks: "Our club likes historical fiction and also stories that include foods and cultures from other lands. We discussed which characters we related to and how different and the same the two mother figures were. A couple of us related to Fliss and not the three Guinness Girls and we also compared mothers and depression and anxiety from different eras. A couple of the ladies in our club related to Aileen and one of our ladies compared herself to Maureen and we all agreed!"
Menu: Tea sandwiches, Guinness Bread, Beer Pretzels, Irish Deviled Eggs, Irish Bailey Chocolate Fudge, and an Irish Cheese platter.
Reading Is My Cardio Book Club of East Greenwich, Rhode Island
It's Lit!erature Book Club of Gilbert, Arizona
THE IDEA OF YOU by Robinne Lee (St. Martin's Press, 6/17)
The story of Solène Marchand, who begins an impassioned affair with a member of her daughter’s favorite boy band.
Reading Is My Cardio Book Club: "We are so grateful you chose us for this book! I can't believe we hadn't heard of it - it was a story everyone enjoyed which is rare in our group. It was perfect!
"The book was a great combination of smart and sexy and the story was one that we could all relate to as moms around Solène's age. Not that any of us are in anywhere near the same situation, but Solène's struggles as a woman of a certain age trying to balance everything and find happiness gave us a lot to talk about.
"There were so many interesting topics of discussion, including whether or not we would have made the same choices, from embarking on the affair to continuing it to the decision she makes at the end. And especially, how we relate to her trying to put herself first while also worrying about the repercussions it had on her child and her work."
Menu: "Our version of a VIP afterparty with August Moon Mimosas (Prosecco, triple sec, pineapple juice, and blueberries) and desserts."
It's Lit!erature Book Club: "It was such a treat to travel along with Solène and imagine being at the different locations, as we have not traveled. Although we would prefer not to have throngs of fans surrounding us, imagining secluded beach getaways in the south of France and taking romantic strolls through the streets of Paris or Tokyo sound like the perfect escape right about now. The steamy scenes definitely added to the escapist feel of the novel. We also felt it would make an interesting movie, and it was fun to find the book title within the text itself."
Menu: "We met virtually but shared our drinks and snacks as well as discussed what foods we associated with this book. We all agreed that serving Scotch would be a must!"
The Revivals Book Club of Germantown, Wisconsin
THE THERAPIST by B.A. Paris (St. Martin's Press, 7/21)
B. A. Paris returns with a gripping novel of psychological suspense, a powerful tale of a house that holds a shocking secret.
"We all recommend this psychological suspense thriller! We are not new to B. A. Paris, having selected BEHIND CLOSED DOORS for our June 2018 discussion. Everyone raced through THE THERAPIST eager to solve the mysterious murder along with Alice. We knew Paris would lead us down twisted roads of deception and confusion, but surely we could figure out whodunit. False clues kept you guessing, and the ending will surprise you. This is a book where a second reading will reveal all the ways we choose incorrectly! B. A. Paris chooses her words carefully, artfully, and cleverly, sending the reader down dead-end paths and rabbit holes along with Alice.
Our host began her telling of a too-close-for-comfort real-life murder in a neighboring home. From her patio, we stared, mouths open at the home where a husband killed his wife during a violent argument. We asked our friend, how it was to live so close and in plain view of the location of a murder. How ironic that we choose her home to discuss this book even before reading it!
THE THERAPIST is an addictive thriller that I could not put down. Filled with secrets, relationship dramas, issues of trust, and one psychopath, this book will not disappoint with this escape read, perfect for summer!"
Menu: "Crackers, muffuletta, hummus, and nuts, a nod to appetizers at the cocktail party Alice held to meet the neighbors".
Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey, North Wales Area Library Book Club, Pennsylvania, and Words with Friends of Boston, Massachusetts
MAN ENOUGH: Undefining My Masculinity by Justin Baldoni (HarperOne, 4/27/21)
Encouraging men to dig deep within themselves, actor and director Justin Baldoni helps us reimagine what it means to be man enough and, in the process, what it means to be human.
Book Club Girls of Sparta: “MAN ENOUGH is a wonderful, new take on being ok to just be yourself. We thought it would be a wonderful addition to high school and college curriculum, interwoven with themes of psychology, society's interpretations of what is gender appropriate, economic status and our social interactions”- We wouldn’t have chosen MAN ENOUGH, but we enjoyed reading it and the discussion that followed! We felt the book is suited to a younger audience—men and women but particularly college-age men. However, the book was a wonderful, new take on an old topic of being ok to just be yourself.
"Being 'enough' was a theme that was brought up in our discussion throughout the evening. The book centered around Justin's experiences growing up and now being a married man with his children, but we felt the message could apply to women and men equally. We found his last few chapters particularly endearing and connected you to his frame of mind and heart.
“The cover is outstanding, and we are now following Justin on social media and enjoying his pop-up visits to stores where he is delighting and surprising fans.
His writing and experience brought a fresh take to topics of self-understanding, empathy, finding inner peace, and striving to beat down the devil on all of our shoulders, who tells us we aren't enough. When we believe we are enough, we can begin to heal and help others by modeling this confident and brave, and peaceful forgiveness.”
Menu: “We thought spicy Thai food (Justin is extremely handsome) and a crisp beer (it's the drink that most people associate with a ‘man's drink, but we love it too) would pair with the book.”
North Wales Area Library Book Club: "Our group has discussed many books, and as the facilitator, I feel this was one of our best discussions. MAN ENOUGH took our readers out of their comfort zones Ten women and one man participated in the two-hour (and it could have lasted longer) discussion. We talked about the most meaningful chapters: Chapter 5,' Privileged Enough: The Reality of My Racism and White Male Privilege" was #1 with us. We discussed that the men in our lives had fewer friendships than Baldoni mentions. The younger members of the group identified more with his quest to accept himself, the older members were through that stage of their lives.
"A great deal of time was spent discussing body images and racism in its many forms. The book provided insight that we can apply to other situations. Members found themselves discussing various parts of the book with important men in their lives. The book provided good talking points. While members said it wasn't a book they would have chosen from the shelves all were glad they read it! Several participants had the audio version and thought Baldoni did a great job narrating his book."
Words with Friends: "We invited our husbands to read MAN ENOUGH and participate in our discussion, an important conversation about masculinity which we somehow have never had.
"Members completed surveys before the meeting based on topics Justin raised in the book. We began by reviewing the results. Questions included how likely are you to stop and ask for directions, to talk with friends about feelings and fears, the actors you most admired as a child, if you thought your children had a broader definition of masculinity than you did, at what age Justin's message would be most valuable, and to describe a man cave! We sorted men's and women's responses. These lead to a fascinating discussion about our responses, including generational shifts in thinking about masculinity, body image, gender equality childhood experiences, unwritten messages about masculinity, and more.
Menu: "For dessert, one of Justin Baldoni’s favorite treats, Justin's Peanutbutter Cups."
The Revivals of Germantown, Wisconsin and the Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey
A SUMMER TO REMEMBER by Erika Montgomery (St. Martins’ Press, 5/21)
A romantic and timeless debut novel tinged with a love of old Hollywood.
Revivals: "A light read for our club that gravitates towards books with some insight based on truths or slanted toward historical fiction. We appreciate and are open books that take us away from our usual genre.
"Do the people or a house make a home? This theme runs throughout the book with each of the characters longing for or avoiding creating a home. While it was easy to dislike Mitch, was he the real villain in the book? Taking a closer look at Glory's choices and how she handled the path her life had taken, we asked ourselves if the villain was really so obvious? Montgomery has written a book that seems to be headed in one direction with an obvious climax, but then takes a hard turn in another unforeseen direction. The six main characters in the novel are not as they appear outwardly, hiding truths, creating deceptions, and keeping secrets. Long forgotten unopened letters are uncovered to take the reader on a journey to Cape Cod to deliver the letters to their intended, thirty years after they were written. As Midwestern readers at winter's end, we enjoyed a visit to the coast, even if it was only through the well-written pages of a good book.
Menu: "Stardust Margarita (highly recommend the author's recipe), hors d'oeuvres reminiscent of Glory and Mitch's first visit to Louise and Russ' home. Mushrooms Tartlets, New England Clam Chowder, Green salad with lemon vinaigrette, and fresh bakery bread. Champagne, and hand-crafted truffles."
Book Club Girls: "We all enjoyed this story! Many of our members connected to the characters in the book a few even collect movie stubs too!
"We think it makes for a fantastic beach read that brings together the themes of family, friendship, home, hard choices, and how secrets we keep have true consequences for not just ourselves but for those around us.
"We were drawn to the question of what does home mean to you? Is it a place or the people that you are with that define home? Overwhelmingly each of us defined home as the people you are with— your family your friends. We were the first book club to discuss Erika Montgomery's book with her via Zoom. She was easy to talk with and was genuine and gracious with answering our questions and joining our meeting."
Menu: "With the movie themes throughout the book popcorn is a definite snack choice!
Pittsburgh Chick Lit Book Club of Pennsylvania and The Afterthoughts Book Club of Woodlands, Texas
UNDER THE LIGHT OF THE ITALIAN MOON by Jennifer Anton (Amsterdam, 3/21)
Historical fiction inspired by a true story of love and women's resilience during the rise of fascism and Italy's collapse into World War II.
Pittsburgh Chick Lit: "An excellent match. We enjoy reading historical fiction, especially books that focus on women. UNDER THE LIGHT OF THE ITALIAN MOON provided us with an interesting story about life in an Italian village before and during World War II. We learned so much about the challenges faced by these women, not just from life itself as a woman in a small town, but also from living with separation from their husbands, dealing with a fascist government, and surviving a war-time occupation.
"Jennifer Anton joined our discussion via Zoom and we learned that she spent years talking to her American and Italian relatives in her research used to develop the storylines for the novel. It was fascinating to hear about her extensive research into life in the Italian village, Fonzaso, before and during World War II. She shared detail of her discussions with those who lived in the village under Nazi occupation and how they survived and thrived after World War II. It was particularly interesting to hear that one of the characters, Rita is based on a woman who is still alive today and continues to be the same happy, mischievous person that she is in the book. We also enjoyed learning about what was real, and what was fictionalized. We encouraged the author to continue the story in her next book."
The Afterthoughts: "A great match, and an excellent book. We enjoyed the characters and felt like we were in Italy with them We liked the historical elements as well as the storyline. We enjoyed the food at Nona's Italian along with the discussion and Italian Cream Cake.”
Friday Foodie Literati Book Club of Austin, Texas and Next Chapter of Los Altos, California
AMERICAN DAUGHTER by Stephanie Thornton Plymale (HarperOne, 1/21)
A memoir of a troubled mother-daughter relationship and a meditation on trauma, resilience, transcendence, and redemption.
Friday Foodie Literati: "AMERICAN DAUGHTER is a well-written memoir of a unique upbringing of a resilient daughter by a troubled mother. It's a mystery, in part, and well worth the read to find out why Mom's parenting skills were so lacking. The story reminds us all how lucky we are looking back at our own childhoods." We discussed empathy for her mother, that her mother's transient lovers provided support to Stephanie. One taught her to read and one listened and believed her story of abuse and that she stayed in touch with one of the boyfriends until his death"The events that transpired leading to Stephanie and her estranged mother finding each other again are truly amazing. This story is about how forgiveness can lead to healing. Her literary style gave way to an easy read for a very difficult subject."
Next Chapter Los Altos: "Stephanie joined our discussion via Zoom. She was generous with her time, so honest and vulnerable, and we had an amazing conversation—one we will all remember forever. Any book club would be lucky to have her!
Revivals of Germantown, Wisconsin and CLAMS (Corte Madera Literary And Munching Society) Corte Madera, California
HALF LIFE by Jillian Cantor (HarperPerennial, 2/24/2021)
A reimagining of Marie Curie's life using a parallel structure to create two alternative timelines.
Revivals: "We agreed that this is one of the best books we have ever read. This was a perfect match for our book club. Four out of five of us are directly or indirectly involved in the field of medicine. We are all women and we appreciated the female characters and the many layers of this book. At least one of us would like to meet the person who inspired Jillian Cantor's character, Pierre.
“There are many layers and themes for discussion. Rich in character development, the men's and women's storylines express the hardship faced by women in Russian-occupied Poland. Prevented from pursuing higher education and pressed to marry, left women who sought a different life than what was expected, difficult. We applauded Marie's father for encouraging his daughters to pursue their passions and his acceptance of their individuality. We are grateful to Marie Curie for her contributions to science and respectful of all she gave of herself to continue her scientific research. This book tells an important story of a two-time Nobel Prize-winning woman, her discoveries, losses, and acceptance of her personal choices made during her life's journey. We highly recommend this well-researched and excellently written book to book lovers of historical fiction, non-fiction, and life story readers.”
Menu: Yellow Beet Root and Kale Salad (yellow for the "yellow and gold and ethereal glow of the radium when Pierre takes Marie to the lab in the evening), Quiche and Paczki for dessert (the popular Fat Tuesday snack originating in Poland).
CLAMS: "HALF LIFE sparked a lively conversation on a variety of topics. We were intrigued by how the author took a known subject and created an alternate reality. Everyone liked the title's multiple meanings. We found it interesting that Marie’s character traits were perceived as determined and focused by some, yet were seen as cold and uncaring by others.
“Several years ago our group read a biography of Marie Curie, and many of us enjoy historical fiction as well as biographies, so this felt like the best of both worlds. This book fits with our interest in strong women in history.
"Discussion topics included women’s issues during the time that Marie Curie lived vs. the issues women face today; how women were overlooked, underpaid, and discriminated against due to their gender; women's' educational opportunities in Europe during Marie’s time; Marie’s role as a scientist, mother and Nobel Prize winner, and the conflict women face between mothering and career; the difficulty of life for a female scientist at that time."
ALL THE CHILDREN ARE HOME by Patry Francis (HarperPerennial, (3/17/2021)
A sweeping saga following a foster family through almost a decade of dazzling triumph and wrenching heartbreak.
Happy Bookers of Linn, Missouri: "We enjoyed the character development and the depth of the story that had also humor and a bit of mystery. We agreed that it had been a while since we cared about the characters like this. Several of us said we would read the novel again. We were glad to see the foster family's success and the triumphs of them persevering over personal heartaches.“
Menu: “We recalled food from childhood: Franco American, Chips Ahoy, anise cookies, Nonna’s pies, and Dahlia’s special meals prepared for her kids for special occasions."
Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey: "A powerful, well-written, character-driven story of endurance, hope, love, bonds that tie a family together. We learned how the foster care system was run in the '50s and '60s. Several members were foster parents and shared their experiences. Some were also involved in counseling and working with agencies to help transition children from foster care to more permanent homes and how mental health services were so very needed for all involved. We note that the Moscatellis could have benefited from counseling and that the system today would never return a child to their biological parent so easily as we saw in this book, as we all wondered what became of Jon. A story about grit, love, resilience, bonds that we make with people who truly love us. We also saw the terrible stereotyping that the Moscatellis endured because they were perceived as being very poor and unstable—which in fact was really the opposite.
Menu: “In the spirit of the food in the book we'd serve Franco-American canned spaghetti and all of Nonna's fabulous Italian dishes!"
Chicks With Books of New Milford, Connecticut:"An engrossing story about the lives of the foster children raised by Louie and Dahlia Moscatelli in the 1960s. We liked each chapter's alternating points of view. We felt the Moscatellis formed a real family with their foster children, that Louie was the rock it was built on, and that there could have been more of him in the book. Our favorite character however was Nonna! We pictured a doting old-time Italian grandmother cooking, cleaning, and spoiling the entire family. We discussed the title and concluded once the children were Moscatellis in spirit if not in name, they had found the home where they belonged and the love they found there meant that no matter what they faced in the future they would be okay."
Two Points of Interest Book Club of Brooklyn, New York
"This isn't a book we would normally pick but, we loved it. The book was an endearing read with a lot of heartfelt moments. I enjoyed seeing the children grow up and try to find their own paths. I felt like the book was a bit incomplete in the end and I am hoping that the author plans to continue the story with happens to them in the later years. We are excited to read other books by the author."
Menu: "We ate childhood favorites with a new spin.
Cork & Olive Book Club of Valrico, Florida Book Club
THIS CLOSE TO OKAY by Leesa Cross-Smith (Grand Central, 2/21)
From the award-winning writer Roxane Gay calls "a consummate storyteller," a cathartic novel about the life-changing weekend shared between two strangers.
"We all loved THIS CLOSE TO OKAY I received texts throughout the month as each member finished to tell me they loved the story. I was pulled into the story right away and the tension of not knowing what was going to happen between Tallie and Emmet kept me engaged throughout. The story grabs you at the beginning with Tallie Clark, on her way home, sees a man standing on the bridge in the pouring rain.
We discussed the relationships of all the characters. It was difficult to dislike any of them, even Tallie's ex-husband by the end of the book—that surprised us! We also discussed whether it was okay for Emmet to send those emails to Tallie's ex. Some were angry that he violated her confidence and some believe that what he did actually helped her to heal. We felt it was a book about healing and helping each other cope.
The story has a good pace, deep characters, and is a very timely read!"
Menu: "While we didn't meet to enjoy food together, we discussed the food in the book! There were a lot of great food opportunities had we met in person! The description of her house makes you want to stay there and talk to her over a cup of tea. Or a glass of wine."
Hot Flashers of Antioch, California and Teachers Who Read of Plain City, Ohio
THE HISTORIANS by Cecilia Ekbäck (HarperPerennial, 1/21)
A riveting tale of murder and conspiracy in Sweden during World War II.
Teachers Who Read: "A perfect match for our book club! We love historical fiction and THE HISTORIANS took place in Sweden a new location and new viewpoint (since it was a neutral country) during World War II. We enjoyed this book very much - Many of us couldn't put it down once we started. We liked that it's a historical fiction book but we felt like this book was a thriller —in a great way! None of us predicted how the story unfolded and we enjoyed the ride it took us on. We liked the dual stories of Stockholm and Blackensen Mountain. We found the group of students that studied together fascinating, especially how they grew and changed but still always had a connection. We found the project being worked on in the story (no spoilers) unfathomable and couldn't believe how wide the network seemed to be. We liked learning about the Sami culture (indigenous people living in northern Sweden)."
Hot Flashers: "We enjoyed the murder mystery nature of this historical fiction novel and enjoyed learning about Sweden and its neighboring countries' actions and attitudes during World War II. The title was spot on for a novel that dealt with a group of friends meeting in a history class who grappled with the concept of rewriting history through actions like eugenics or keeping actions secret."
"We all learned about the Scandinavian countries positions and relationships during the war, which was new to all of us. We also had no idea of the eugenics programs and the concept of a Scandinavian Reich, and were shocked to learn the State Institute for Racial Biology forced sterilization in Sweden until 2013. We made comparisons to what happened in America. Sami second class status was also new, but the novel was so engrossing we learned new things without feeling “taught to”. Made comparisons to native peoples here and just about everywhere. Overall the characters and their relationships were well fleshed out and believable, and we loved how the book began and ended with Javanna and the realization that took place between January and June of 1943. We wish we knew whether Kristina was really a spy/swallow. We were fine not knowing who did the cleanup killings at the end."
North Wales Area Library Evening Book Club, North Wales, Pennsylvania,
WE COULD BE HEROES by Mike Chen, (HTP Books, 1/21)
An emotional adventure about two misfits who have extraordinary powers, but have forgotten who they were. The vigilante and the villain must team up to stop a mad scientist who threatens the city while trying to figure out who they really are.
"A perfect selection for our group. The genre, SciFi/fantasy stretched the group to read a title they would not have chosen."The author joined our meeting by Zoom and his input made the discussion better! Mike shared information about why the cover was chosen, what from the book is his experience —he loves coffee and has a cat. He spoke about the theme of friendship and why that was important to him, and about his career and other books. We discussed the plot, characters, setting, the pace of the action. Several members plan to share the book with young adults in their lives. Only one member regularly reads this genre but all agreed they were glad they read the book. We agreed that this book could easily become a film. We had fun casting it! The theme of friendship was universally chosen as important, especially in today's world."
"MEDIOCRE was a pleasure to read. We appreciated the author's writing ability, knowledge of the subject matter, the insight she provided, and the thoroughness of her research.
"We were blown away by the author's knowledge and insight regarding events throughout this country's history starting with the white man's expansion into the western part of the United States, which included the treacherous deeds exacted by the Mormons and others to the contributions of many stellar women of color, such as Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American to run for president to the protests by students and athletes of color and their impact."
KC Book Club of Kansas City, Missouri
THE TRANSATLANTIC BOOK CLUB by Felicity Hayes-McCoy (HarperPerennial, 11/20)
An enchanting, cozy new novel, perfect for fans of Jenny Colgan, about residents of Ireland's Finfarran Peninsula who set up a Skype book club with the little US town of Resolve, where generations of Finfarran's emigrants have settled.
"Our members enjoyed getting to know Felicity Hayes McCoy, who joined our meeting by Zoom from Ireland, and discussed how she comes up with characters, locations, and plots.
"We loved how the fictional characters were like people we have all known in real life. Favorite characters included Brad—who's just SO perfect; he's great looking, rich, and NICE—, Jack, Hannah and Fury, and his sidekick Divil. We agreed Mary was the most annoying. Gobnit needed some old-fashioned discipline, and her mother Darina was a hot mess.
"Member Carrie commented that she could see the townsfolk in Finfarran transplanted to a small town somewhere in the South in the United States—they would need different (Southern) accents and be authentic. Member Yvonne mentioned that Pat is much more self-aware than Mary, but they have a long-standing friendship and accept each other despite wanting to scream at each other sometimes—true friendship. We think Felicity should create and share a map for her fictional county of Finfarran on the west coast of Ireland."
Menu: We toasted Felicity on her publication day over Zoom!
Mountain Meadows Book Club of Renton, Washington and Revivals Book Club of Germantown Wisconsin
BLUE SKY KINGDOM by Bruce Kirkby (Pegasus, 10/20)
A portrait of a family letting go of the known world to encounter an unfamiliar one filled with rich possibilities and new understandings—and a father's journey to experience the world as his neuro-diverse son experiences it.
Mountain Meadows Book Club: “BLUE SKY KINGDOM is so much more than a travelogue, and miles beyond any 'How We Found Ourselves' story. We were transported to a buried place in our souls as we journeyed with Bruce Kirkby and his family to a Himalayan Buddhist temple. Addicted to scrolling the social media wasteland and drained from their older son's autism spectrum diagnosis and treatment, Bruce and his wife Christine revive their sidelined 'fantasy' of making the journey with their two children to 1000-year-old Karsha Gompa in Zanskar, India. The 3-month trip involved traveling by container ship, train, canoe, and miles of high-altitude trekking.
“Adopted by Lama Wangyal, he gives the family Tibetan names, an honor, but also necessary for communication. The Kirkbys become English teachers to the young monks living at the monastery as the kids disconnected from the tether of technology and connected with life in a natural way. Our hearts were lifted following along as Bodi used meditation to control anxiety caused by noise, people, and changing routines We were fascinated by how Tibetan Buddhism is still practiced in its undiluted form, and about the Dalai Lama, India, Chinese territorial claims over Tibet examples of prejudice against Tibetans in India.
“We wondered how the family would fare but were uplifted by the tale of their return less beholden to technology and much closer to one another. We discussed finding peace by distancing from the modern world’s constant clatter and aiming for higher awareness, and restoring ‘permanently fractured awareness’. One review called the book ‘soul-refreshing reading’: we couldn’t agree more. Linda was the first to declare the book fabulous, and we all jumped on board immediately.”
Menu: Tibetan Thukpav (chicken noodle soup), Rice Pudding with apple, honey
Revivals Book Club "We encourage book lovers to dive into this book, even if you think the topic is out of your usual genre. We enjoy books that introduce us to unfamiliar topics and encourage further exploration, and BLUE SKY KINGDOM accomplishes both.
“Through meditation, exploration, and a desire to disconnect with the digital world, Bruce finds himself and a connection to Bodi, his autistic son, that would not have been found in Canada muddied by daily routines and demands. Given the family's openness to adventure on a scale not commonly sought out, it's no surprise they didn't just settle for a commitment to unplug at home for 10 days in order to be more physically present in each other lives.. Bruce surprised us by his poetic writings and descriptive observations. His deep internal connection to the natural world and human nature comes through in his writing.
“Would we attempt such a journey with or without two young children in tow? Was it risky to attempt such a journey and would the rewards outweigh the risks? We think the Kirkbys made the right choice for their family. Bodi and Bruce especially reaped the rich rewards as they formed a deeper bond leaving habits and routines at home. Both flourished and grew in the freedoms offered under the 'Blue Sky.’
“If self-exploration and rugged discovery aren't appealing enough, readers will find a rich introduction to the Buddhist Karsha Gompa Monastery and all it affords to residents, rituals, and daily life. Our meeting included reading aloud memorable passages on a wonderful sunny blue sky day."
Menu: “Eating off the land: egg strata with red peppers and Kale, similar to omelets in the book, fresh fruit Apple Squares, Birthday Cake, which fit well with Christine's birthday cake. Flowers were gifts in lieu of the market earrings Bodi haggled to purchase for Christine. Jullay Jullay!"
Pittsburgh Chick Lit Book Club
TSARINA by Ellen Alpsten(St. Martin's Press, 11/20)
A rich, sweeping first-person narrative is the story of Catherine Alexeyevna's rise to power to become the first woman to rule Russia in her own right.
"Many members thought that the book was one of the best books that we've read! TSARINA was a perfect historical fiction match for our club. We were honored to preview the book and have an informative video chat with the author, who provided us with insights about the book and the writing process.
"Ellen Alpsten transported us to Russia in the time of Peter the Great. Her vivid descriptions and historical accuracy gave us an in-depth understanding of the life of Catherine, from her humble beginnings to her crowning as 'Tsarina' after the death of Peter. While some of the descriptions of torture were brutal, they provided a realistic picture of the fragile nature of life at that time. We felt the loss of each of Catherine's children and her bravery in trying to birth the son that Peter so desperately wanted as his heir. Catherine embodied the strength that we see in so many powerful women today. She never doubted that she could survive and thrive.
"Ellen’s passion for Catherine came through in her writing and in her description of her intensive research for the book. We were astonished when she told us that she didn’t visit St. Petersburg until she finished writing TSARINA. Her descriptions of Russia during the time of Peter seemed so realistic, we assumed she must have lived or visited frequently. We were delighted to learn Ellen currently editing the sequel to TSARINA, and look forward to reading it!"
Jane Austen Book Club of Lexington, Kentucky
THE WIFE UPSTAIRS by Rachel Hawkins (1/21, St. Martin's Press)
A delicious twist on a Gothic classic that pairs Southern charm with atmospheric domestic suspense.
"THE WIFE UPSTAIRS gets the Jane Austen Book Club’s Seal of Approval! Not surprising, since a few of the members had been gushing non-stop about their favorite parts and how they couldn’t put this book down!
"THE WIFE UPSTAIRS allowed us to take a new look at an old favorite— we all are JANE EYRE fans! We compared and contrasted the original story to the update, discussing the difference between the emphasis of morality and virtue in Victorian literature versus modern literature and the drive for self, orphanages of the Victorian era compared to the modern-day foster system.
"The novel takes the story of Jane Eyre and transports it from the moors of Victorian England to an exclusive suburb in modern-day Alabama. Our main players are Jane, the plain orphan who has aged out of the foster system and is trying to hide from her past while walking dogs for the rich and elite. Next is Eddie, the handsome, wealthy outside to the neighborhood who seems to have moved on rather quickly after his wife’s “disappearance”. And then there’s Bea, Eddie’s mysterious wife that people just can’t stop talking about, even after her she went missing during a random midnight boating accident.
"This book is great for fans of BIG LITTLE LIES, as well as a great thriller to read curled up at night! From comparing this book to its source material all the way to the nature of the characters themselves, there is something for everyone to keep you on the edge of your seats!"
Menu: Spaghetti Neapolitan, whose origins and backstory are just as deceptive and mysterious as our main characters!Bloody Wake-up Call mocktail: orange and lemon juices, seltzer water, and grenadine —in ominous glassware.
Beth El Synagogue Book Club of Omaha, Nebraska
THE EDUCATION OF DELHOMME: CHOPIN, SAND, & LA FRANCE
Nancy Burkhalter (History Through Fiction, 11/2020)
Chopin’s piano tuner, hungry for money, is lured into a royal spy ring but later condemned for treason by Napoleon III during the 1848 Paris Uprising
"Everyone expressed their pleasure with this book and our group delighted to talk with the author. We appreciate historical fiction done well, with adequate research and a literary bent. New perspectives are always welcome and we tend to look beyond the book for a bit more information. Most of us listened to specific Chopin pieces mentioned in the novel. For book clubs, this can lead to a discussion of musical influence, universal themes of freedom, women's rights, strong women.
"It was a bonus having the author join us virtually for the discussion. She explained her background in coming to write this novel, her use of style, her sense of musical knowledge, and the historical aspects of the novel. She was very personable, accessible to questions and comments, and added to our discussion."
Fab Five Book Club of Appleton, Wisconsin, and Reading Between The Wines Book Club of Kure Beach, North Carolina
ESTELLE by Linda Stewart Henley (8/20, She Writes Press)
From 1872 to ’73, renowned artist Edgar Degas called New Orleans home. Here, the narratives of two women—Estelle, his Creole cousin and sister-in-law, and Anne Gautier, who in 1970 finds a journal written by a relative who knew Degas—intersect, and a painting by Degas of Estelle spells trouble.
Fab Five Book Club:
"ESTELLE has many of the qualities we look for in a novel: morsels that kept us guessing, romance, family drama, societal inequities, and family relationships. We discussed the ease with which the author intertwined two stories told a century apart: the story of Edgar Degas in New Orleans and that of Anne Gautier in 1970. We compared similarities between characters from the 1872-73 time period and modern times. Estelle was a favorite character, and we grew to love and admire her for her family commitment and qualities. The family genealogy charts in the front of the book, Degas' painting of Estelle while he was in New Orleans, and the epilogue and afterword were helpful additions. We all agreed the writing transported us to the era when Degas would have been visiting family in New Orleans: the sights, sounds, colors, and way of life. ESTELLE sparks an interest in learning more about Degas his works. The novel has mystery too, and we talked about that and how we kept "guessing" about characters and how things would end.
A celebrated singer in World War II occupied France joins the Resistance to save her estranged family from being killed in a German prison.
"We’ve read other books about World War II but none that looked at the war from the perspective of the resistance movement We were glad we read it and we thought it was a page-turner (especially the second half). The details the author provided gave us a good feel for the time and the place. The book reads very fluidly. It difficult emotionally for some to read the parts about graphic torture and suicide, but, we appreciated that the book was realistic. This was paramount. This book would make a great movie!
"We really enjoyed reading a book by an author we weren’t familiar with. We met in a local park so that we could spend time outdoors and practice social distancing."
The story of thirteen-year-old German immigrant Pia Lange, struggling to hold her family together in Philadelphia during the deadly Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.
“Our members love historical fiction, particularly when the main character is a woman, and this book hit the mark! A perfect match! Our group was so fortunate that the author joined us on a Zoom call. It was a special evening. Ellen was thoughtful, informative and it was so lovely that she shared her time with us.
"The pandemic, the Spanish flu of 1918 in Philadelphia, is the book's main theme, and another theme was - two relatable themes today. When the author wrote the book she did not have any idea of the current pandemic, and we discussed how we all felt so fortunate that we are living through this now about what had occurred in 1918. The main character and her family are German immigrants and they were treated so poorly by many Americans during the time the story took place. again, we had a great discussion about how immigrants are treated in today’s world and how far we have come, yet still have so far to go. We commented that we would love to find out what happens after the story ends in the life of the beloved, main character, Pia. Bravo to Ellen Marie Wiseman on another winner!
Menu: "One member made delicious pogacas, Turkish pastries mentioned in the novel that are stuffed with olives, cheese, for meat. We had whiskey cupcakes—whiskey was present throughout the book as many people drank it in the hopes of a cure from the Spanish flu and they also used it as a healing rub, again hoping for a cure."
THE FIXED STARS by Molly Wizenberg (Abrams, 8/4/20)
Memoirist Molly Wizenberg's taut, electrifying memoir exploring timely and timeless questions about desire, identity, and the limits and possibilities of family.
Flagstaff Ladies Book Club
“A great book club book! THE FIXED STARS is a readable, well-written memoir that explores the 'fixed' views the author had about her sexuality and life trajectory. Everyone enjoyed THE FIXED STARS! We had a lively discussion about gender issues, sexuality, marriage and relationships, parenting...all topics we talk about all the time. The book brings up interesting questions about how people perceive gender, 'settle' into their lives, and sometimes change in ways that don't work into their life plans.
"As a reader who is older than the author, with kids who find the gender fluidity of their friends normal, I found the memoir thought-provoking and a great book to discuss with others. Wizenberg's description of falling in love with her husband and having a child is important to understanding how then being attracted to women would be confusing and unexpected.
"On the surface, the story of how she met a woman during jury duty and eventually decided to open her marriage and then divorce could sound somewhat unbelievable, and the author explains how she had the same thoughts. Having written two books about her life and marriage and having a child, how can she explain having different attractions as a 'fully-formed' adult? Isn't sexual preference innate? How Molly Wizenberg answers these questions with her own experiences, therapy, and the studies she quotes makes this book worth the read. We also found it fascinating that she had written a few books about her marriage and restaurants, which she seemed to be extricating herself from in this book. We discussed how marriage is hard, and that may be transitioning to a partner of a different sex from her spouse made the split easier to explain to herself than breaking up.”
Girls Clubhouse Book Club
"Everyone enjoyed THE FIXED STARS. It felt like the author's journal written in a consumable way for readers to understand her innermost feelings and struggles. The writing style was fluid, with quotes to emphasize Molly’s points. It tested conventions, was intimate and gave perspective."
“'When you pick a partner, you pick a story.' This came up in our discussion. One member was really taken aback by Molly’s relationship with Nora—how unhealthy and confining it seemed. But she also wasn’t having a healthy relationship with her husband—she needed and wanted more. We all felt that Molly’s choice to use 'she' for Ash until she asked and then used 'they' was A good way to show her growth."
Menu: Since Molly owned a bar, we thought a local brewery drink would be fitting.
Historical fiction set at the 1939 New York World’s Fair about two bold women discovering themselves during a glorious summer of spectacle and potential.
Being immersed in the 1939 World’s Fair was a perfect escape! We had a lively discussion of this compelling story. A member felt like she took a vacation! Another noted the book promoted a feeling of optimism, and others said the World’s Fair brings hope to the world and brings people together. The characters were optimistic about the future even though they had challenges to overcome."We enjoyed hearing about family members' experiences at the World's Fairs. One member's husband attended the 1939 New York World’s Fair when he was ten years old, and he shared memories of the Aquacade and showed her places he visited on the map included in the book. Another member's father played a trumpet solo at the 1939 San Francisco World’s Fair. One member commented that the fair descriptions were so vivid, she felt she could draw a map of the area, the buildings, the exhibits, the amusement zone. Schnall certainly did her research about the Fair and the period.
"We discussed whether we were more like the character Vivi or Max! The book inspired lots of conversations about our personalities —controlling and aggressive vs. passive and letting things happen. We also discussed how women were treated in the workplace during this era, and the challenges they faced, compared to today."
by Casper ter Kuile (HarperOne, 6/23/2020)
The co-host of the award-winning podcast Harry Potter and the Sacred Text shows how everyday practices—yoga, walking the dog, book club—can heal our crisis of isolation and our hunger for meaning.
"We observed the worldwide reaction to the pandemic through Kuile's suggestions: we watched a world recreate itself and make meaning of 'ordinary' experiences. In mid-March, schools closed and citizens sheltered at home due to the Pandemic, and THE POWER OF RITUAL galleys arrived. The intersection of these two events was auspicious. The world transformed overnight. We had to create a ‘new normal’ and find meaning in the daily activities still available to us. Along came Casper Kuile.
Kuile describes ways to find meaning and ritual in ordinary practices. Everyday activities such as reading, exercising, eating, walking a dog, dancing, creating art are activities that can have intention. We observed the worldwide reaction to the pandemic through Kuile's suggestions: we watched a world recreate itself and make meaning of 'ordinary' experiences. Families cooking together teachers connecting with supporting students, neighbors walking local pathways. Life slowed and people paid attention and reconnected with nature. It seems that the world is ready to understand and practice Kuile’s suggestion 'to rethink what it means for something to be sacred.'
We met on member Betsy’s front lawn on a beautiful summer day, Betsy’s daughter began leading a yoga practice. Afterward, members made beaded bracelets to use for future prayer, blessings, or meditation.
We all identified common practices and discussed ways to deepen their meaning. Kuile stresses that consistency, intention, and awareness are necessary for attaining the level of soulful practice. Member Paulette gave a mediation on nature as ritual and reflection. She and her husband are making an intention to notice the natural world during their walks. She shared stalks of horsetail, an exotic plant that she described as a 'living fossil', over 280 million years old, and sorrel for us to taste, a symbol of lasting friendship, along with sauteed morel mushrooms. Morels don't appear each year, and she emphasized that where you find age and decay, deliciousness is also present.
Kuile describes book clubs as sacred activities, stressing that it's our reflection on the text rather than the reading that makes the activity sacred. We must discuss how the book speaks to our experiences and to identify actions that its themes might suggest. Books are a touchstone to define our current situations and help us to improve our daily interactions. Our book club has created the type of community that Kuile describes. The book affirmed emotions our members have felt since our first few meetings. We experience reading as '. . . a path to greater awareness. To courage and commitment.'"
A gorgeous and evocative historical novel about a Japanese-American family set against the backdrop of Hawai’i's sugar plantations.
"THE COLOR OF AIR is the latest book to wind up on the Mountain Meadows Book Club 'Favorites' list. Linda was very happy we were chosen for the book as Gail Tsukiyama is one of her favorite authors, having read several of her books. Some of the descriptive terms that were used during our Zoom discussion of this wonderful book were lyrical, enchanting, and lovely. We felt the book was all these things and a masterfully woven story.
"A welcome panacea to the times we are living in is how our book club describes reading this story of Daniel Abe, a successful doctor in Chicago, as he returns home to Hilo two years after his mother Mariko’s death. A secret has driven Daniel home, though, and we are enchanted by the story Tsukiyama weaves switching between 'ghost voices' and 'island voices' as the prodigal son and his long-ago community are united again.
"A powerful story of love and pain told so gently through the eyes of Daniel, Koji, Mariko, and Nori, we felt as though we were there, in the lush and abundant fields of Hilo, sharing in the lives of the characters and becoming part of the community. Hoping with each turn of the page that the forces of nature will not destroy their homes and livelihoods and wondering if secrets held so tightly will ever be revealed.
Thanks to #BookClubCookBook and #GalleyMatch for the opportunity to read this book!
Menu: We Zoomed, but I made a composed salad using fresh fruits and mango.
Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey
LET THEM EAT PANCAKES: One Man's Personal Revolution in the City of Light by Craig Carlson (Pegasus, 7/20)
A second helping of tales on the joys and challenges of working, eating, and loving in France from the author of PANCAKES IN PARIS.
"We enjoyed our Zoom discussion with Craig Carlson. Craig spoke with such humility and passion for his experiences and his book that you instantly felt a connection to him. We asked questions about his writing, the restaurant, and about the more intimate revelations in the book. He was just so relatable, we fell in love with Craig instantly."
"We learned it is not always easy to open a business in Paris, with different employee regulations and rules. He is a great example of someone overcoming early life adversities and making their dream happen as he did in opening a restaurant in Paris.
"Each member spoke highly about the book. Several of us bought his first book, PANCAKES IN PARIS so that we can read more about his adventures in Paris."
THE BOOK OF SECOND CHANCES by Katherine Slee (Forever, 5/20)
Wine and Book Babes
"We loved it! This story caught us right off and we enjoyed it until the end."We really enjoyed the story—it took us on an adventure, and also journeyed through grief and regret and then finally came to terms with making a happy future for Emily."We enjoyed the flashbacks into Catriona's younger life and her choices for a life of independence and career. Our members are in their mid-50s to mid-60s so we could all reflect with Cat regarding her past.
"We thought the title was two-fold: an opportunity for Cat to take Emily on a physical and emotional journey whereby she could let Emily see how raising Emily was the second chance in many ways for herself. Second, the journey allows Emily to realize that she can give herself a second chance at life in spite of the tragedy she has experienced. We thought it was a great first book by this author, and wish her the best of luck!"
Mom and I Book Club
"This was our favorite GalleyMatch book We didn’t get to see each other to discuss the book but we felt closer since we could both read the same book together. The way the characters changed throughout the story, their relationships with each other, safety vs. overprotection, the love interests of the characters, and the journey each woman made. I try not to judge a book by its cover but I felt like I was going to enjoy this book when I saw it. The cover is beautiful and the description sounded right up my alley. I’d say my initial reaction about that was right. Among the discussion topics: how we never really know our parents or grandparents as well as we think. They lived a lot of life before we came along. This is definitely the story of a journey, not a destination. With each step she takes, Emily has to challenge her own comfort levels. She has to go further from home, she has to talk to strangers, and she has to speak more than she has in years. In the process, she learns about the people and experiences that made her grandmother who she was."
Jane Austen Book Club
"We read this from start to finish in record speed!. 5 out of 5 Red Velvet birthday cakes for THE BOOK OF SECOND CHANCES! We enjoyed this book so much! Several members commented this is the perfect book to read during our current situation, while one declared this was her new favorite." "This is the story of Emily, a sheltered young girl with a damaged past who is sent out in the world on a scavenger hunt by her recently deceased grandmother, an acclaimed children’s book author, to find the hidden clues to her final book! Once Emily received her first clue, we all found ourselves invested in her journey, rooting for Emily to overcome her past and remember what was hidden! Members found ourselves talking about not only this book, but whether we would have the courage to go on such a journey, favorite children’s books, children’s reactions to the goals set for them by parents, and of course...Paris! We cannot recommend this book enough!"
Menu: "We all had our own ideas as to what drinks and nibbles would pair well with our book! Red wine, a gin & tonic as a tribute to our characters being from England, whiskey on the rocks— Emily’s preferred drink, a charcuterie plate from our resident Francophile, and a red velvet cake from a nearby bakery and a glass of chilled Prosecco, since our heroine always celebrates her birthday with red velvet cake and champagne."
East Lawrence High School Book Club of Trinity, Alabama
ALICE BY HEART by Steven Sater (Penguin Teen, 5/20)
A young girl takes refuge in a London Tube station during WWII and confronts grief, loss, and first love with the help of her favorite book, Alice in Wonderland, in the debut novel from Tony Award-winning playwright Steven Sater.
“Thank you so much for this most perfect book to read during our quarantine!!! One of the main characters was in quarantine! How timely a book for us to read right now.”
"The students thought I could tell the future because we received the book right before COVID 19 hit! We discussed the similarities between tuberculosis and COVID 19. The book also provided some bibliotherapy for our students and teachers. The characters had it so much worse in their situation, being quarantined during World War II, which shed light on how much easier our quarantine is in 2020. I mean...we aren't getting bombed like the book's characters were!
"The students loved the references to ALICE IN WONDERLAND. I enjoyed the poetic language the author used as well as the challenging vocabulary. I think it's a perfect book for someone to use when teaching about World War II. Historical fiction has been our students' favorite for the past two years."
Menu: "The only food mentioned was SPAM, cans of tomatoes, and tea. We totally would have had some form of that if we had met in person. Since we met online, I posted pictures of the food/drink on Padlet for our club so we could pretend together!"
K3 Book Club of Centennial, Colorado,
WEIRD BUT NORMAL: Essays by Mia Mercado (HarperOne 5/20)
Contributor to The New Yorker's Daily Shouts, New York Times, and McSweeney's, Mia Mercado's humorous essay collection exploring the absurd and yet very regular parts of being a millennial woman navigating racial identity, gender roles, workplace dynamics, and beauty standards.
"It was cringeworthy, hilarious, relatable, and timely. It arrived on our doorsteps at the perfect time during this Covid lockdown. Thank you for a perfect match! WEIRD BUT NORMAL is a series of stories about life in your late 20s/early 30s, which we all are. This book was nostalgic. We talked about growing up in the 90s/00s, AIM screen names, the importance of taking care of your mental health, internal monologues that resemble Judge Judy—which made us laugh out loud, especially since we are all lawyers— and the dangerousness of walking into Target without a list. This book facilitates discussions about everyday life."
Chapel Creek Book Club of Frisco, Texas
LOST BOY FOUND by Kirsten Alexander (Grand Central Publishing, 3/20)
A Southern historical novel based on the true story of a boy’s mysterious disappearance examines despair, loyalty, and the nature of truth
"We had such a fun book club night with LOST BOY FOUND. Due to social distancing, we had both an outdoor socially distanced book club in a member's driveway and a Zoom meeting for those at home. We are fans of Alexander's writing and character development. Members enjoyed the historical fiction aspect and learning about the true story behind the novel. We also learned a lot about the early 1900s in the deep South, and discussed the racial and class issues during that time."
Chapel Fab Five Book Club of Appleton, Wisconsin
THE PELTON PAPERS by Mari Coates (She Writes Press, 4/20)
A novel based on the life of artist Agnes Pelton (1881-1961), from her shrouded Brooklyn childhood and the devastating consequences of a family scandal to Agnes’s secret passion for another woman and early success in the Armory Show of 1913, and subsequent retreat to a contemplative life in the California desert, and, ultimately, the flowering of her deeply spiritual art.
"We enjoyed 'traveling' to Europe, New York, and places out west with Agnes and the writing transported us to and conjured up images of those places."e enjoy historical fiction and had never heard about Agnes Pelton. While reading we enjoyed researching her art. Agnes was 'born before her time,' and her vision of art was progressive, apparently related to her fondness of the famous artist, Kandinsky. She, like Kandinsky, was a good painter of people and 'the real.' But she was also more alive when she used her talent for the abstract. She realized though, that to make a living, she needed to give people what they wanted.
"We discussed the four major events Agnes was witness to during the 20th century, and how events did not seem to affect her greatly. The Armory Show of 1913 was of great interest to us, especially learning that this was a time when Americans were exposed to European Contemporary art.
"She was a woman of regrets, yet she led a colorful life, filled with many adventures related to her pursuit of art. Yet, we viewed her a sad and unable to find a lasting, loving relationship. For Agnes, there are moments of darkness in life, and moments of great radiance."
Book Buddies Book Club of Carrollton Texas and
It’s Lit!(erature) Book Club of Gilbert, Arizona
HANNAH'S WAR by Jan Eliasberg (Little Brown 3/20)
Set during World War II, a brilliant female scientist works on splitting the atom and falls into a game of cat-and-mouse with a man sent to find the mole in the lab where she's working.
Book Buddies: "What an epic novel for such an epic time in our history: History, Suspense, Love Story=Fabulous Read! Five Atomic Stars! Jan Eliasberg’s expert director’s eye creates a vision of intrigue and deception laced with lies; while covering the 'blackboard of suspense' with the perfect equations for love to unfold and trust to develop. Is the love and trust merited, or is it all a masquerade? Readers will be trapped in the author's net until the last telegram is delivered. One member's mother-in-law is from Germany, so she had personal insights into the early relationship between Hannah and her mother after her father died and her mother remarried. Our club has also discussed THE QUEENS OF ANIMATION, THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE ROOM recently, and all three books have highlighted the amazing accomplishments of brilliant women and the struggles involved with being excluded from discussions, processes, and lack or recognition. Many were even erased from history completely."
"I designed these postcards as bookmarks: The Mountain Blue Swallowtail (pp.196-97). I loved the imagery and quote: 'I admire that about the mountain blue, keeping her beauty hidden, not showing off or wasting herself on the rabble.'"
Menu: We met by Zoom, but several members prepared a Raspberry Custard Kuchen, referenced in novel.
It’s Lit!(erature): "This was a good match in terms of genre and topics. There there were many topics we wished were explored more. We also would be interested in learning more about Sabine's story after she left Germany.We thought this could be a good mini-series!"
Menu: We were not able to have our usual food and drinks sharing, but we would have served Manhattans, pie, chocolate cake, and stuffed mushrooms (referring to the mushroom cloud of the bomb).
Lectio Matris of Hayden, Idaho:
THE LAST BLUE by Isla Morley (Pegasus, 5/20)
A luminous narrative inspired by the fascinating real case of "the Blue People of Kentucky" that probes questions of identity, love, and family.
"THE LAST BLUE was a captivating, emotional, touching love story, that was hard to put down. We enjoy historical fiction and learning about new topics. We enjoyed how the author switched back and forth telling the story from the perspective of both main characters from very different backgrounds. We were kept in suspense throughout. I actually stopped reading 40 pages from the end because I was afraid of how the book might end, but the final twist made me love it even more. We loved both of the main characters and those who supported them in their love. It was a beautifully written book that made us want to look for other books that the author has written."
Reading Between the Wines Book Club of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
NIGHT THEATER by Vikram Paralkar (Catapult, 1/20)
A surgeon must bring a dead family back to life in this fabulist debut novel set in rural India, which examines power, corruption, and ethics.
"Best book club yet! We enjoyed being pushed out of our comfort zones! We were fortunate to meet the author at a local bookstore and he joined our book club discussion via Skype, which added to our appreciation! We discussed the medical field, which was interesting given the corona virus happening now. and what medical professionals face in the face of exhaustion and being overworked. Also, magic realism—we likened it to Paolo Coelho's books on morality. We really enjoyed ourselves. Vikram is very personable and our discussion was wonderful."
Menu: Apothic red wine, a dark red that gave spooky vibes.
Get Woke Book Club of New Prague, Minnesota
THE BOOK OF ROSY: A Mother's Story of Separation at the Border by Rosayra Pablo Cruz and Julie Schwietert Collazo (HarperOne 6/20)
A searing tale of the human lives behind the immigration crisis, written by two remarkable mothers—a Central American woman whose children were taken from her by the United States government at the southern border, and the American who helped reunite the family—and offers a timely and urgent look at a migrant experience, family separation and reunification, and the power of individuals banding together to overcome even the cruelest and most unjust circumstances.
"For anyone concerned about the migration situation and the status of conditions at our borders, this book is a must read. THE BOOK OF ROSY takes readers on a journey that generates a rollercoaster of emotions. We were appalled at the conditions in the detention centers. The women's’ resilience was amazing and the suffering described by Rosy was finally offset by the remarkable work of Julie Schwietert Collazo and Immigrant Families Together who helped migrant families separated at the border, raising funds and creating a volunteer network nationwide to post bond and reunite families.
Our members realized that the immigration problem is complex. Topics discussed: Is it possible to reverse the crime, poverty, and living conditions of the people of Guatemala? Is our government supplying money that is falling into the hands of corrupt leaders or drug cartels? How do we track the funds going to detention centers when it does not seem to be promoting acceptable living conditions? How does our country absorb the immigrants that are granted asylum? How do we support groups like Immigrant Families Together? The problem seems overwhelming, but the work being done by Julie and volunteers gives hope.
At the end of the book, Julie offers ways to ‘get involved’. Rosy’s question: ‘how do you choose one danger over another?’ echoed in our minds. Perhaps the best answer is as Julie quoted ‘both little and big things’ being addressed by many of us.
Several members who have traveled to Guatemala enriched our discussion with accounts of building housing and working with impoverished communities. They identified ways to help the people of Guatemala: they felt education was key contributing to an educational organization that pays for a child’s schooling. Another member shared the idea of using church funds to buy land and turn it over to families, establishing ownership and pride for the poor.
Menu: "After reading of the poverty and scarcity of food in Guatemala, we found it difficult to celebrate the abundance that we take for granted. In honor of the Guatemalan culture, we had margaritas and a taco tray, homemade guacamole: one member who had traveled to Guatemala has foraged for avocados in order to make fresh guacamole."
Outside the Box Book Club on of Fairport, New York
BLACK SUNDAY by Tola Rotimi Abraham (February, 2020)
Following the fate of one family over the course of two decades in Nigeria, this debut novel tells the story of each sibling’s search for agency, love, and meaning in a society rife with hypocrisy but also endless life.
"We had a very lively discussion and were pleased to read something outside of our typical book club pick. We are a very homogeneous group of white suburban women, and reading about other cultures has been very eye opening. We discussed women's lives in Nigeria compared with the lives of women in Afghanistan portrayed in another recent read, THE BOOKSELLER OF KABUL. We noted the sisters' low self esteem — and how this abandonment of the children has repercussions throughout their lives, and that that if the mother did not lose her job the whole families lives would have been completely different.
"We reflected on whether this book touches on some of the authors own life experiences. All in all, this is a wonderful first book and we expect to hear more from her."
Book Nerd Book Club of California and Idaho
PROMISES OF THE HEART by Nan Rossiter (HarperCollins, 2/20)
The first novel in a new series tells the moving story of a couple struggling to start a family and the young foster girl with a heart condition who changes their lives forever
"You'll be hooked by the first chapter. We enjoyed discussing the book, making the recipe, and interacting with the author. PROMISES OF THE HEART appealed to our reading interests. It was a heartwarming and dramatic story—you couldn't help but fall in love with the main character. The story hits the ground running and you won't want to put it down until you finish the last page."
Menu: "Two members made the Chocolate Chip Blondies recipe included in the book. Really tasty!
Our Wine Club has a Book Problem of Caseyville, Illinois and North Wales Library Book Club, Ohio
LOST IN OAXACA by Jessica Winters Mireles (She Writes Press, 4/20)
When her star student leaves California to return to her village in Oaxaca, Mexico, piano teacher Camille Childs, being a search for her, navigating the unfamiliar culture to help her view the world in a different light.
Our Wine Club has a Book Problem: "We all loved the book, which is a surprise as there is always someone who doesn't care for what the selected read. Even though there were many topics explored, the author made the story flow easily. Topics included abuse, human trafficking, kidnapping, circumstances that made a person be who he/she becomes, forgiveness, a love story. It reminded us a little bit of Romancing the Stone'."
Menu: "Margaritas, taco ring, chips, guacamole, salsa. Lime chicken, Southeast roasted potatoes, Mexican Street Corn.Dessert: Sopapilla and Vanilla Bean Pot Cake —If you haven't read the book, you won't understand the significance of the bean pot cake. All of the bookies loved this extra addition to our party."
North Wales Library: "We found the book an interesting, suspenseful, and an easy-to-read selection. The Oaxaca culture (especially food descriptions) and the music were highlights. The characters were well developed and the use of the Spanish language that explained the phrases used was appreciated. One member drew a map and all the group felt this would be a good addition to the book. The book was well rated and made a great escape."
Menu:" Fresh salsa and homemade chips!"
Pennsylvania's Chester County/ Chester Springs Library and Durham, North Carolina's Testers & Tasters Cookbook
FRESH FLAVORS FROM THE SLOW COOKER: Reinvent the Slow-Cooked Meal; 77 Mouthwatering Recipes by Nicki Sizemore (Storey, 2019)
Filled with recipes for slow-simmered main dishes, along with sauces and sides thatreplace canned ingredients with fresh vegetables, boost flavor with aromatic herbs and spices, and feature a tantalizing array of global tastes.
Testers & Tasters Cookbook Club:
"A thumbs-up all around! Easy prep using pantry staples make these recipes go-to choices for satisfying mealls. A big hit with members, even those who aren’t big slow cooker users. We appreciated the wide range of dishes, most using pantry staples and/or easily-available ingredients ."
Chicken and Black Bean Chilaquiles: "A definite make again"
Chicken Tikka Masala: "savory deliciousness"
Pear Butter: "Smooth delight"
Roasted Red Pepper and Artichoke Shakshuka "Fresh herbs brighten flavorful sauce. Perfect for brunch."
Sweet Potage with Spicy Maple Pecans and Toasted Cheese Baguettes: "Elegant enough for a dinner party. Easy enough for every day"
Vegetable and Quinoa Chili "Satisfying bowl of yummy."
Chester County/ Chester Springs: "We liked variety of recipes and the simplicity in creating them. The step by step breakdown for what gets done was well laid out."
Group favorite: Chicken and Black Bean Chilaquiles. Also: Best Beef Chili, Garden Ratatouille, Bolognese, Chicken Tikka Masala, Spicy Maple Pecans, Jalapeno Corn Muffins, Asian Pot Roast, Spinach, Prosciutto and Gruyere Strata, Thai Vegetable and Peanut Curry, and Greens, Cheese Lasagna.
Sunday Night Book Club of Otsego, Minnesota
IN THE FLO: Unlock Your Hormonal Advantage and Revolutionize Your Life by Alissa Vitti (HarperOne, 1/20)
The author of WomanCode presents a biohacking program for women, teaching them how to use their natural 28-day cycle to optimize their time, diet, fitness, work, and relationships.
"We all wondered where was this book when we were younger!" Some of us are past the stage of having cycles but there was so much good information in the book that it was a worthwhile read. Our favorite section of the book was definitely 'Making Motherhood Easier.' We talked a lot about this topic because we could all relate so well and the part about 'Syncing Your Parenting with Each Phase' was spot on. It was 'Aha, Yes. I know these phases.' As mothers it makes so much sense , as we reflect on whether we are more adventurous taking our kids new places, more sociable, and on 'the let's get things done' band wagon, or needing extra alone time. This book also prompted a discussion of how food affects our bodies, and also just listening to what your body is telling you."
Girls’ Clubhouse Book Club, of Auburn, California
THE DOWNSTAIRS GIRL by Stacey Lee (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 8/19)
From the critically-acclaimed author of Under a Painted Sky and Outrun the Moon and founding member of We Need Diverse Books comes a powerful novel about identity, betrayal, and the meaning of family.
"We enjoyed delicious Southern soul food while discussing this bittersweet young adult novel, and visited Curtis Park's The Dragon House to end our day with Chinese culture. All members liked THE DOWNSTAIRS GIRL and some called it a phenomenal, five-star book. Georgia in the 1800s with a Chinese-American character was a unique perspective. We discussed how Jo Kaun didn’t fit with any group and led a hard life, yet she made her own way. Her 'Dear Miss Sweetie' column was refreshing and humorous— Tt was the one place where she could be herself. Stacey Lee illustrated many aspects of the South that gave a historical outlook in quilting, horse racing, and hat making. We wondered what it was like to be Jo in each of these situations."
Menu: "We met at Fixins Soul Kitchen in Sacramento for a taste of the South: catfish, collard greens, sweet tea, peach cobbler."
Cork & Olive Book Club of Valrico, Florida
THE QUEENS OF ANIMATION: The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History by Nathalia Holt (Little, Brown and Company, 10/22/19)
The untold, "richly detailed" story of the women of Walt Disney Studios, who shaped the iconic films that have enthralled generations.
"Everyone enjoyed the book, both for its historical value as well as educating us about women who worked at Disney and how they were treated. The contributions the female artists made throughout Disney's history were amazing! From the inventor of the grease pencil to the inventor of the multi-plane, the recognition of these women for their innovations was unfortunately missing. We also enjoyed the history behind each of the animations--how stories started and evolved to become the final product we see today. We have a few 'meh--Disneyers' among us, but even they agreed the book revealed many interesting facts and characters - men and women, included."
Menu: "Our theme was, of course, Disney! Remy's Ratatouille, Pocahontas' Cornbread, Gophers Succotash from The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Glass Slipper Cocktail, Magical Stuffed Mushrooms from Alice in Wonderland, Spaghetti and Meatballs from The Lady and the Tramp, Wild Acre Wood Salad Gray Stuff from Beauty and the Beast, Snow White's Potato and Sausage Soup, Frozen Jello Shots. We had several children's books from the movies and themed our food around those stories. We also had large coloring book sheets on the table so we could do a bit of 'inking' ourselves."
Neighbors of Cranberry Book Club of Plain City, Ohio
LOVE LETTERING by Kate Clayborn (Kensington, 12/19)
New York City's finest hand-letterer hides messages in her work that always go unnoticed--until a finance worker wants to know why she included the word "Mistake" in his wedding invitation, and, more importantly, how she knew his wedding was doomed to fail.
"Many of us wanted to go on the tour of Brooklyn with Meg and Reid to find the signs with them: instead we were able to curl up with this book and and enjoy it! Its amazing how a book can bring friends and neighbors together— and the laughter. We love that Meg is a funny and strong female character, successful with her own business. She isn’t a push-over, and we enjoyed seeing her looking for love. Meg is an artist and we appreciated her perspective of noticing and looking for signs! The unique fonts and the author's knowledge of the different fonts was a fun addition to the book and added to the romantic feel. We had a hysterical discussion on steaminess in literature. Thank you for helping us have another enjoyable book club over a great book! We want to see this as a movie! A great read for our bookclub and it is highly recommended to others!"
Friday Lunch and Dessert Club of Escondido, California and Jane Austen Book Club of Lexington, Kentucky
THE HENNA ARTIST by Alka Joshi (MIRA, March 2020)
Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern, The Henna Artist opens a door into a world that is at once lush and fascinating, stark and cruel.
Friday Lunch and Dessert Club: "Each of us enjoyed looking at our lovely hands and seeing ourselves through the eyes of The Henna Artist's patrons.Having a henna artist at our book club meeting brought the book to life. Our artist, Vaishali, brought hand-mixed henna and applied it free-hand, using her years of experience applying intricate designs to women's hands and bodies. The henna experience was new for most members. and they appreciated having all of the elements in the book in play at our meeting. It helped us connect with the book."
"The story was very engaging and we had a great discussion, including the caste system and difficulties women face in Indian culture. That a woman could be completely ostracized from her culture if she gave birth out of wedlock was disturbing - especially since this book took place not that long ago. We highly recommend THE HENNA ARTIST to others."
Menu: Chicken Tikka Masala; Paneer Tikka Masala; Palek Paneer; Basmati Rice; Samosas; Garlic Naan; Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette; Rooh Afza Lemon Sharbat (Indian Lemonade with Rose Syrup); Kulfi Ice Cream (Pistachios/Cardamom/Saffron/Cream.)
Jane Austen Book Club: "We could not stop raving about this book! There is something in here for everyone: historical fiction, strong women, gossip eaters, inner struggles between what is right vs. wrong, all within the backdrop of 1950’s India. We have the story of Lakshmi, a woman who has established herself as a successful henna artist and dispenser of herbal medicine for women, who is moments away from having her dream of home of her own that she has designed and is waiting for the day when her parents will join her, when the past she has tried to keep hidden for so long suddenly knocks on her door.
"Members showed up with their books filled with highlighted and marked sections. One member typed up her favorite quotes (this time Indian proverbs), and another member read aloud a passage involving the Brontës! Topics ranged from what this book made us feel to the expectations that are still placed on women today.Our conversations about the story and characters lead to discussions about India’s caste system, arranged marriages, how women were treated in the 1950’s, and how those feminine role expectations are still placed on girls and women in the 21st-century We cannot recommend this book enough! Put it on your lists and read it when it comes out this coming March!"
Menu: Our bartender in the Brontë Bistro in Lexington prepared a book-inspired cocktail,
Lakshmi’s Frangipani Water, a gin and tonic with cucumber-mint water and a splash of lavender water, garnished with cucumber. A character in the book, when she has a gin and tonic, waters her plants with it because she was told they keep you healthy."
Adrienne Book Club of Flagstaff, Arizona
THREE FLAMES by Alan Lightman Counterpoint Press, 9/19)
The stories of one Cambodian family are intricately braided together in this novel, set between 1973, just before the Cambodian Genocide by the Khmer Rouge―to 2015.
"We talked more about this book than any other in recent history."—None of us had been to Cambodia, and enjoyed learned about this culture. The subject matched our interest in women's issues around the world, and we were introduced to the plight of women in Cambodia. We discussed their struggle against a backlog of male dominance, the realistic depictions of the women— we were given enough background to understand how their experiences shaped their futures. The first and last chapters provided great, hopeful bookends: forgiveness in the first chapter and hope for the youngest daughter in the last. We really enjoyed the writing — spare, but setting the scene and fleshing out the characters."
Menu: Food was very present in the book, making it easy to incorporate a Cambodian menu into the gathering. Cambodian chicken amok, green mango salad and Cambodian coffee.
#209 Book Club of Merced, California
JULIET TAKES A BREATH by Gabby Rivera (Penguin Teen, 9/17/19)
A gutsy, queer coming-of-age story perfect for fans of Nina LaCour, Rainbow Rowell, and Elizabeth Acevedo.
"Our Latina girls love exploring diverse books, and appreciated the random Spanish words throughout the book, the Latin culture, and seeing latinos represented in young adult books.We are an all-female book club so the feminist, girl power was great! I translated phrases for those who don't speak Spanish, and we explored the different cultures within the Latin community—Juliet is from Puerto Rican roots, and two members have Mexican roots and it great to share our culture, and explain the differences between Latinos. We are all huge supporters of the LGBT community, and when we can read books with that representation we discuss how different the times are.
"Women, Latinos, LGBT people have always been made to believe that they are less than and not represented as much, and we really appreciated the fact that this book combines it all. We discussed how instead of standing back and being quiet, all these diverse groups are fighting for power and equality, which is exactly what Juliet is fighting for in this book."
It’s Lit!(erature) Book Club of Gilbert Arizona and Girls’ Clubhouse Book Club, of Auburn, California
WILD GAME: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me ( Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1019)
A daughter’s tale of living in the thrall of her magnetic, complicated mother, and the chilling consequences of her complicity.
It’s Lit!(erature):”A page turner, emotional, draws you in and keeps you hooked. We all enjoyed the book and had great discussion! Topics included mother-daughter relationships, theme of forgiveness, and the burden of secrets. The group had a particularly interesting conversation when discussing the author’s voice throughout the story and what she chose to disclose and focus on at different points. Some members were initially unsure how this memoir would read like a thriller, however they were proven wrong.“
Menu: “Sliced, roasted sausage with mustard and cornichon pickles, roasted Cornish game hens with baby potatoes and carrots, Caesar salad, and Hot Buttered Rum. Peaches with vanilla ice cream from the mother’s(Malabar Hornblower) cookbook, DO AHEAD DINING, and served Malabar’s Power Pack cocktail (and mocktails).”
Girls’ Clubhouse: “The author asks to readers to imagine if the memoir began with a tragic story instead of an affair, if we would have been more sympathetic to Malabar’s decisions, a question that sparked good discussion. We felt that the mother’s motives still would have been revealed and that her choices had a lasting affect on her daughter. We discussed the impact of our mothers, and how as mothers we impact our children. For the women with more selfish moms, this book hit home and was a harder read. Others were stunned by Malabar’s antics.”
Menu: "A variety of drinks and food were fitting for discussing this memoir, as the mother used food as a ruse to stay close and interact with her lover."
Sisterhood Book Club of Macon, Georgia
CILKA'S JOURNEY by Heather Morris (St. Martins, 10/19))
From the author of the THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ, a new novel based on an incredible true story of love and resilience.
"We had read THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ and were interested in Cilka's story— and loved the book. We discussed the unfairness of the sentence put upon Cilka, her amazing strength to endure, the conditions at the gulag— and what surprised us. Morris’s superb writing made us feel the suffering, anger, and fear of the prisoners. We were totally enthralled and found it extremely difficult to put the book down. This is a story we will not forget."
Boston Bookies of Greater Boston, Massachusetts
NO SURRENDER: A Father, A Son, And an Extraordinary Act of Heroism That Continues to Live On Today by Christopher Edmonds and Douglas Century (HarperOne, 10/19))
Part contemporary detective story, part World War II historical narrative, the inspiring true story of Roddie Edmonds, a Knoxville-born enlistee who risked his life during the treacherous final days of World War II to save others from murderous Nazis, and the lasting effects his actions had on thousands of lives—then and now."
"Many of us had fathers who fought in the war and we could relate to the story. We discussed how the men’s faith in each other and God and Roddie’s leadership and courage, played a role in keeping the POWs hope and strength during such a devastating experience. We discussed the psychological impact of the war and the brutality of the senseless killings at Malmedy. Although the war was coming to a close, the Nazis couldn’t relinquish control. Charismatic personalities, such as Hitler, had such a hold over their men - right to the very end. We found it interesting to learn about the recruiting of college students, the training process, and the delegation of power."
Menu “Soup and bread in honor of the POWs who were fed thin soup and brown bread in the Stalag camps.”
Chana's Cookbook Club of Houston, Texas
BIGGER BOLDER BAKING by Gemma Stafford (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9/19)
More than 100 accessible, flavor-packed recipes, using only common ingredients and everyday household kitchen tools.
"We love baking, and follow the author, and as a longtime fan, I was thrilled to review this through GalleyMatch. The recipes are arranged according to the baking tools you have on hand. Only want to dirty a spoon and bowl? There’s a chapter for you! Don’t want to turn on your oven in this heat? Gemma Stafford has you covered! Everything we’ve made from this cookbook over the past few weeks has been simple, straightforward, and delicious. The recipes stood up to adaptations and we loved that they were given with metric measurements as well, as so many cookbooks don’t include these. The attention to detail in these recipes is much appreciated. There’s even a recipe for almond extract in this book, which massively appeals to my inner #diydiva.”
Take Two Book Club of Wichita Falls, Texas
SPEAKING OF SUMMER by Kalisha Buckhanon (Counterpoint, 7/19)
A literary thriller about one woman's desperate search for her missing twin sister, a multi-layered mystery set against the neighborhoods of Harlem.
"We admired the author’s character development. We felt strong connections to even minor characters.
“This book stretched us a little bit: reading about a neighborhood different from ours led to a better discussion, and exposed us to a voice that was different from what we hear every day. We admired the author’s skill at relating the details of sexual abuse, an aspect of the story was told so well -- the details were so real.
"Everyone answered the question: At what point in the story did you start to question the narrator's reliability? This led to a good discussion of reliable/unreliable narrators!"
K3 Skype Book Club of Paris, Boston, and Colorado
THE PARIS ORPHAN by Natasha Lester (Forever/Hachette, 9/19)
From the author of The Paris Seamstress, a World War II novel that spans continents and crosses generations as an American soldier and an enterprising Vogue photographer brave war-torn France to help a lost little girl find the one thing she never had: a family.
"Enticing and unputdownable, and we need to read this author’s backlist now! We live in Paris, France; Boston, Massachusetts; and Centennial Colorado, so book club is a way to stay connected. This was an absolutely perfect match. We gave it a 5 star review on Goodreads. Read in two days and could not put it down! The book was moving, sweet, heartbreaking, romantic, frustrating, and fascinating all at the same time.
"Discussion centered on the story’s timelines, and we were fascinated about the inspiration for Jess’s character. We found the inherent sexism of the time absolutely heartbreaking as it pertains to women war correspondents. This is a book we will discuss for a long time.
NGE Book Club of Hudson, Ohio
THE WINEMAKER'S WIFE by Kristin Harmel (Gallery Books, 8/19)
The author of The Room on Rue Amélie returns with a moving story set amid the champagne vineyards of northern France during the darkest days of World War II, perfect for fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale.
“Many weren't aware of the issues faced by the winemakers in France during World War II; several are now interested in visiting that area of France and seeing some of those underground areas. Interesting discussion point: the women being fully mobile without assistance, and with minds so intact, compared to those we know in that age range. We decided we needed to start drinking gin as this must have been her secret!”
Menu: A bottle of the Champagne from the region referenced in the book would be ideal!
Happy Bookers Book Club of Linn, Missouri
TONY'S WIFE by Adriana Trigiani (Harper Paperbacks, 7/19)
Set in the lush Big Band era of the 1940s and World War II, TONY'S WIFE is the story of two talented working class kids who marry and become a successful singing act, until time, temptation, and the responsibilities of home and family derail their dreams.
"We love Adriana Trigiani's themes of family and history, learning much about the time period with the music and fashion of the era, as you can see by our group picture!
“We have read a number of Adriana Trigiani’s books over our 26 years of reading together. We were engrossed with Chi Chi and Tony’s lives and emotional journeys. Women’s issues came into our discussion-individual career paths, marriage, dreams, raising children. How the influence of your background and your family shape you. We also discussed the immigrant experience and the hard work they and their ancestors put forth to give their children a better life. How much we have enjoyed and learned while reading a great story!"
Menu: "Saverio's favorite dessert, ciambella, a cake with cherries, handpicked from member JoAnne's cherry tree, along with Prosecco. Authors are our rock stars, and we love celebrating them and their books with food and fun! "
Asheville's (NC) Fantasy/SciFi Books & Beer Club
HOLLOW KINGDOM by Kira Jane Buxton (Grand Central, 8/19)
One pet crow fights to save humanity from an apocalypse in this uniquely hilarious debut from a genre-bending literary author.
“What a smart, thoughtful, funny, and true book! We discussed our relationship with nature.” Comments: “It was genius of Shannon to use the Cheeto as a symbol of how far away from real nature we (and our food) have come. Professors could assign students to write papers on the symbolism of the Cheeto in this book!" “Should listen to ‘Invisible Things’ by Handmade Moments when taking a break from reading HOLLOW KINGDOM.“
Menu: Cous Cous salad with Farmers’ Market veggies, a refute to the very essence of the Cheeto
Mountain Meadows Book Club of Renton, Washington
BODY LEAPING BACKWARD: Memoir of a Delinquent Girlhood by Maureen Stanton (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 7/19)
The “mesmerizing . . . daring and important”* story of a risk-taking girlhood spent in a working-class prison town
*Andre Dubus III
“We enjoyed reading the book, and had a three hour conversation. We were girls during the time of Maureen Stanton's girlhood, so were interested in her point of view. Our discussion started with the idea that the memoir was a description of a culture, very specific to the area as well as the era .We shared favorite passages: ‘Destructive urges in little kids are tests of power...pent-up energy, the need to release that energy, to smash and burn’. One member just loved the descriptive passages, such as the screen door looking like a sieve. Another member could relate to Maureen's mom using Walpole Prison as a cautionary tale as that is how her own mother tried to motivate good behavior. We discussed our negativity toward the author and her parents with regard to the drug use and lack of parental control. As the book progressed we realized Maureen had feelings of regret and disbelief at her own behavior, emotions we readers had felt from beginning of her story."
“Our group was in awe of the beauty of the writing and the power of the topics. Several members mentioned that they were reluctant to read a book that was a 'poem,' but after reading the first page, they couldn’t put it down. The book was so powerful that it’s hard to articulate responses, but our discussion was one of the best we’ve had. The issues and themes related to women's struggles, poverty concerns, and dysfunctional families, of which our group is very aware.
“To start the discussion, members posted quotes that made impressions on them on a chalkboard poster to get us to get us into the language of the poetry. It became a nice collage of the many of the key ideas presented in the various poems. We read many of the poems out loud before we discussed them."
Excerpt from poem written by Get Woke Book Club
Laurie Halse Anderson
you have activated, motivated
snared our fates
and given hope
thanks for writing”
Sactown Book Club of Sacramento, California
YALE NEEDS WOMEN: The First Ivy League Girls and Their Fight for a Seat at the Head of the Class by Anne Gardiner Perkins (Sourcebooks, 9/19)
The story of the first class of women admitted to an Ivy League university in 1969.
“We enjoyed the format, focusing on a few women and related anecdotes. Most of us went to college during the same time period and we could compare our experiences. Discussion topics included contributing factors in Kingman Brewster's decisions about admitting more women at Yale, the events that fueled changes in the admissions policy, how the experience of black women on campus differed from other women, and comparing the dynamics of meetings held by male students with meetings held by women."
Cathy's Book Club of Brentwood, California
ONCE UPON A RIVER by Diane Setterfield (Atria, pb, 7/19)
From the author of the “eerie and fascinating” (USA TODAY) THE THIRTEENTH TALE, a richly imagined, powerful new novel about the wrenching disappearance of three little girls and the wide-reaching effect it has on their small town.
“This book was a gem—subtle, magical, and should not be missed.We discussed the theme of the river — the river gave, but also took away from the people living along its shore. We also loved the mystery of the found child. Through learning the background of the families, we learned how everyone was connected by a thread, although they may not have known each other.
"We also loved the subtle humor. Those who heard the audio version thought the reader was exceptional and conveyed the humor just as the author might have intended it."
Red Read Book Club of Frisco, Texas
CITY OF FLICKERING LIGHT by Juliette Fay (Gallery Books, 4/19)
Set in the Golden Age of Hollywood and the raucous Roaring Twenties, three friends struggle to earn their places among the stars of the silent screen—perfect for fans of "La La Land" and Rules of Civility.
“We loved the book. We enjoyed the play on the word ‘Flickers’ and the movies and Hollywood as a flickering light, how actors may came and go, like flickering lights. Topics included religion, racism, homosexuality, drugs, sex, and more.”
Readalicious of Duvall, Washington, CLAMS (Corte Madera Literary and Munching Society) of Corte Madera, California, and Hot Flashers of Antioch, Calforinia
THE FOUNTAINS OF SILENCE by Ruta Sepetys (Penguin Teen, 10/19)
A gripping, extraordinary portrait of love, silence, and secrets under a Spanish dictatorship.
Readalicious: “Many members like historical fiction and although this was a young adult book, we enjoyed it. Our sixteen members are from ten different countries, in Europe, North America and South America, and too young to have experienced this period of history [the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco]. We liked learning about the history of Spain during this time, and talked about the post-war period in Spain, and also similar post-war environments in some of the members' home countries — a very interesting discussion. Also, many of us have teenagers who also love to read and like pre-release books, so we were pleased we could share the novel with them."
CLAMS: "Several members had no knowledge of the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship, so this was an eye-opening, educational read. The book was so intriguing - we didn’t need discussion questions. We discussed character motivations, characters we wanted to follow longer, the symbolism of the title, the believability of the love story. We are looking forward to reading other books by this author! We agreed with one member’s comment that although this is a young adult book, it’s appropriate for readers of any age. “The host shared a book featuring clothing designer Oscar de la Renta, with a photo of Penelope Cruz flanked by matadors wearing suits of lights. The novel has a character who sews these suits—by hand— and another character who dreams of becoming a bullfighter.”
Menu: sangria with Spanish wine, fresh fruit, marinated olives, Spanish omelet with onion and potatoes, Spanish Lemon cupcakes, Manchego cheese with bread, jerky, and sugar-coated flower petals – all foods mentioned or Spanish foods.
Hot Flashers: “We read historical fiction, but this subject was something we all knew NOTHING about. Our group LOVED!!!! this book. The theme of silence and oppression was a big topic of discussion.The control that the Spanish government had over its people during the reign of Franco saddened us. We were horrified that the government stole so many babies and sold them.”
Jane Austen Book Club of Lexington, Kentucky
ORPHAN MONSTER SPY by Matt Killeen (Penguin Teen, 2/19)
“Like Inglourious Basterds for tweens, this clever YA title features Sarah, a blond, blue-eyed Jewish girl in 1939 Germany.”–New York Post
“Our group reads classics as well as contemporary novels by women, but rarely YA. Orphan Monster Spy gets our seal of approval! Most members declared they had the book read in days, and could NOT put it down!
It’s got everything you could want: Nail-biting action, thrills, chills, a kick-a** heroine taking down Nazis! Everyone commented on how great it was to have such a strong female main character driving the story. There were some violent moments in the book, which led to a discussion of moments that were triggers for us. We also appreciated the sections where the author wrote of kids who made an impact in the fight against the Nazis. Many members enjoy historical fiction, especially set during World WarII, and we started a list of movies and historical fiction on the topic for those wanting to to delve deeper. It lives up to the description of Mean Girls meets Inglourious Basterds. And the best part is there’s a sequel!"
Menu: Jane Austen Book Club bartender, Michael, created a delightful cocktail: Another Beach in Normandy with peach schnapps, vodka and orange juice, poured over creme de cassis.
Book Bags of New Prague, Minnesota, Morsels for the Mind of Belmont, Michigan and Reading Between the Wines of Franklin, Indiana
THE LOST FAMILY by Jenna Blum (HarperPerennial, 2018, pb, 6/19)
A vivid portrait of marriage, family, and the haunting grief of World War II in this emotionally charged, beautifully rendered story that spans a generation, from the 1960s to the 1980s.
Book Bags: “For our book club, the meaning of 'lost family' took another turn. We’ve been extended family for 20 years and 6 months ago we lost our member ‘Little Marilyn’. We invited her daughters, both avid readers, to join us for The Lost Family dinner and discussion. What a joy to discuss the book and their mother with them. A wonderful afternoon with our ’family’ sharing stories and doing what we like best: discussing books while dining on good food.
"A few topics dominated our great discussion: we were split on sympathy for Peter and his inability to create a family with June and Elsbeth: some felt that he lost his second family.
"None of the characters really had a healthy connection to food and Peter found escape in preparing food – a way of holding on to his past, but it kept him from moving forward.
"Several of us identified with June’s actions and emotions. Like many women of her era (and even today), she gave up a career when she married, experienced dissatisfaction at the her mundane life. Peter would not let her open a decorating business, so she had no outlet for her creative talents. That was compounded with Peter’s absence and preoccupation with the restaurant. We did not condone her infidelities but understood the frustrations behind them."
Menu: "Host Ann’s setting and meal did justice to the opulence of the meals and restaurants in the novel. Her menu—Waldorf Salad, Chicken Kiev, Green Beans Amandine, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Masha Torte, Cream Puffs, Rusty Nail and Tab— was strongly influenced by the food mentioned in the novel, and she also created a Minnesota connection with some of the items. When June went back to Minnesota, her mother offered to make her a sandwich with olive loaf. As a child we would often have bologna sandwiches and sometimes olive loaf. Annie decided to make something that brought back our childhood memory of olive loaf. Ann combined olives with cheese, mayonnaise, and green onion and a baguette to make an appetizer. We enjoyed reading about the Walter Cronkite—a newscaster we watched as kids — hamburger, and had a similar version, with meatballs and flamed the brandy. This was quite the conversation piece as we sipped our wine. The flames lingered for quite a while."
Morsels for the Mind:"We had interesting discussions about Auschwitz survivors, PTSD, anorexia and more. There was compassion for the lives of Peter, June and Elsbeth due to their internal struggles and circumstances.”
Menu: Masha's Menu, including Waldorf Salad, Potato Latkes, Kosher garlic pickles, brie en croute, grapes and Mint Milano cookies, Inside-Out German Chocolate Cake with Cherries Flambe and a side of whipped
cream for dessert
Reading Between the Wines: "We loved chatting with the author via FaceTime. We had many questions about how she developed the characters and their flaws. The responses made us even more sympathetic to some of the characters that we had previously been ‘meh’ about. Her description of her writing process and research also helped us appreciate the book even more. She gave us a tour of her library and writing place!
“We discussed the effects of war, the food themes, and had more to talk about after chatting with Jenna. We all agreed to read more books by the author. The best discussion topic was the concept of love. All of the characters seemed to be looking for love in all the wrong places to make up for what made them unhappy. We enjoyed reading three distinct perspectives in this broken family and that if we didn't love the characters, we sympathized with their plight and wanted to see them find REAL love.“
Menu: Pea soup, and German chocolate cake, similar to the dishes mentioned in the book, along with sundried tomato and feta pastry, and pumpkin bread.
Turn the Page Book Club of Thorofare, New Jersey
THE UNBREAKABLES by Lisa Barr (HarperPerennial, 6/19)
A delicious, sharp novel about a woman who jets off to France after her perfect marriage collapses, putting the broken pieces of herself back together while rediscovering her own joie de vivre—a lust for life, art, and steamy sex.
“Our book club loved THE UNBREAKABLES! An intriguing read, just the right drama, steam, and girl power! Sophia's life being destroyed by her friends and the man who was supposed to love her most is heart wrenching. We talked about forgiveness in our lives — and how we may have handled things a bit differently. We give it 5 stars and recommend it highly. Nicely done, Lisa Barr! We look forward to your next book."
Lakeside Lady Readers of Lake Frederick, Virginia
THE PEACOCK SUMMER by Hannah Richell (HarperPerennial, 7/19)
A story of secrets, forbidden love, and a mysterious old country estate.
“This was a great match! We enjoyed the way the book segued from past to present, appreciating that regardless of period in time, some things never change. Comments from the group: well written; couldn't put it down; liked the aspect of mystery and not knowing the how, when, or why until the end; liked that one of the main characters was an artist, and her part of story told from artist's point of view. We always rate our book reads from 1-5 stars, and gave this one a 5!”
Sip and Read of Baltimore, Maryland
MOTHERHOOD SO WHITE: A Memoir of Race, Gender, and Parenting in America by Nefertiti Austin (Sourcebooks, 9/19)
An unflinching examination of one African-American mother’s experience adopting and raising her two children in our racially-charged society that confronts the intersection of race, gender, and parenthood so that others--be they African-American, Latinx, Asian, biracial, or white--can find solidarity and empathy on their path to and through parenthood.
“Generally we do not read non fiction, but we found the title intriguing. Because of our varied ages and stages in life the discussion got quite lively. Those of us who were older and mothers couldn’t understand the need for such a book as we had our elders and peers to turn to. The younger newer mothers understood the reasoning of the book and how others would see it as helpful. This wasn’t like our usual choices, but we enjoyed the conversation it sparked.”
Wayne County Public Library Discussion Group of Monticello, Kentucky
THE BOOK WOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK by Kim Michele Richardson (Sourcebooks, 5/19)
Inspired by the true and historical blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek showcases a bold and unique tale of Pack horse Librarians in literary novels — a tale of fierce strength and one woman's belief that books can carry us anywhere — even back home.
"We so enjoyed it! It was our favorite book of the year.A well written depiction of how the Kentucky 'Hill' people lived, the story of Cussy, a pack horse librarian who was a life line to her patrons. These librarians were so much more than someone who brought books to your home, they were friends — almost family. The provided an outlet for the people who otherwise would never have seen past the hills they lived in. The book mobile is just a modern day packhorse!”
Bibliobibuli Book Club of San Diego California and Book Club of Frankfort, Illinois
MIRACLE CREEK by Angie Kim (Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 4/19)
A literary courtroom drama about a Korean immigrant family and a young, single mother on trial for murdering her 8-year-old autistic son.
Bibliobibuli Book Club of San Diego California
"We unanimously enjoyed MIRACLE CREEK! This book sparked discussion of so many topics, including Kim's use of multiple viewpoints, the novel's theme of deceit, the plight of immigrants, our own experiences with developmentally disabled siblings, individual experiences as professional care providers to children on the autism spectrum, and writing an accurate depiction of courtroom trials.
We enjoyed meeting with author Angie Kim through Zoom. It was invigorating to hear of her journey from Korea to the United States, see her writing space, and learn that MIRACLE CREEK has been picked up by a movie studio."
Thanks for sending Bibliobubli, MIRACLE CREEK!"
Book Club of Frankfort, Illinois
“It was a perfect match in terms of topics, themes and writing style, and so interesting to be able to talk to the author, Angie Kim, and hear more about her back story and writing process. We had many questions about how she connected to the plot lines, her process, and how she made decisions about characters. We couldn't get over how she would talk about the characters and their development and wanting the same things we wanted for them, but at the same time feeling the need to keep it realistic. We didn't think we would have that same restraint. We all loved the book."
Menu: “In the book, there is a discussion about timing and doing what you feel you have to do versus what you want to do. A lot of that centered around food. So this meal did not appear in the book, but in keeping with the idea of not depriving ourselves or forcing ourselves to do what we should do instead of what we really wanted to do, we had the indulgent meal we wanted with multiple courses, desserts, and beverages."
“We discussed the difference in how mental health was perceived in this book versus how it was thought of in another recent read (The Key by Kathryn Hughes). We also enjoyed discussing Rudy and how he handled his first online date (companionship vs. relationship). The description of what Rudy went through while grieving was very much true-- the humor and the sadness and the anger.”
Literary Gourmets of San Diego, California:
MOTHERLAND: A Memoir of Love, Loathing, and Longing by Elissa Altman
A multilayered story about mothers and daughters, aging and time, loathing and love from the James Beard Award-winning author of the critically acclaimed memoir Poor Man's Feast, the blog of the same name, and the Washington Post column Feeding My Mother.
“We read MOTHERLAND along with Tara Westover’s EDUCATED — we felt the books went together quite well as both involved the life long effects of parental values and mindsets on children. We had a lengthy discussion about the choices you make as an adult versus as a child, the lasting impact of mental illness on children—several of our members are healthcare providers—and the way in which the physical surroundings of your childhood draw you back, even though the emotional landscape is painful. Thank you for sharing this book with us. We recommend it to other book clubs, and would like to read other books by this author.”
Best discussion question: The daughter(author)returning to the same, apparently toxic, relationship, even after finding her own partner, led to a discussion of the strength of the maternal bond.
Menu: Our connection: in recognizing the differences between you and someone you care for, you try to make them happy, or at least well fed! We served: French Garden Salad with roasted beets, roasted asparagus, goat cheese and spiced pecans and mixed greens, roasted eggplant layered with pesto, marinara, roasted pineapple with pistachios, raspberries and crème fraiche.
Get Woke Book Club of New Prague, Minnesota:
FIGHT LIKE A MOTHER: How a Grassroots Movement Took on the Gun Lobby and Why Women Will Change the World by Shannon Watts (Harperonebooks, 5/19)
An inspiring account of how one mother's cry for change became the driving force behind gun safety progress from the founder of Mom's Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
“There is no book more appropriate or meaningful for a book group of women activists. Our highlighters ran dry as we reacted to the author’s comments. Her book is an affirmation of our beliefs, a Balm of Gilead to the struggles and emotions that we experience daily, and a battle plan that speaks to our mission. Shannon wanted to ‘bring together a badass group of women . . . .and raise an army of tough mothers.’ Her goals have been exceeded.
"The Get Woke girls met for 4 1/2 hours and didn’t come close to discussing all of Shannon’s stories, affirmations, and suggestions for action. The most exciting part of the night was our opportunity to Skype with the author. Shannon addressed ways of handling burn out and stress, reminding us to take care of ourselves, manage stress, exercise, meditate, and do whatever is needed to restore your energy. It was a delightful conversation that set the mood for the rest of the evening.
"As a community group we find ourselves stretched in many directions. Shannon’s idea of finding a central focus was discussed. The importance of the red shirt was also discussed as a label. We were interested in the idea of ‘losing forward’. We have had many losses in our efforts, but each one has helped us gain more knowledge and change some perceptions in our community. FIGHT LIKE A MOTHER made us realize that winning comes in many forms.
"The book affirmed so many things that we know about ourselves as mothers and women: we are more effective lawmakers; we can’t be intimidated; we have tremendous skill sets from all of the jobs we perform daily; and we comprise the majority of the voting population. Shannon summarizes our calling perfectly, ‘If we don’t claim our motherhood as a tool, it will be used against us as a weapon.’
"This book is a road map for advocates with suggestions for organizing and advocating.
It eloquently and effectively describes the gun safety movement, but is also a universal bible for activists, especially women’s organizations. It generates hope and enthusiasm; it describes attainable goals; and it envisions a future molded by the efforts and talents of women."
"We enjoy historical fiction and THE AGE OF LIGHT was a perfect title in so many ways: Lee's enlightenment in her art, the way she enlightened Man Ray, the art scene in Paris at the time, and how she informed us about the war with her photos. Our most interesting question: Was Lee ever really in love with Man Ray?"
Menu: Coq au Vin in Burgundy, roasted asparagus, boiled baby honey gold potatoes, green salad and baguettes, with Creme Brulee for dessert
Novel Ideas Book Club of Centennial, Colorado:
LIFE ADMIN: How I Learned to Do Less, Do Better, and Live More by Elizabeth Emens (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019)
LIFE ADMIN tackles the problem of admin in all its forms, from everyday tasks like scheduling doctors appointments and paying bills, to life-cycle events like planning a wedding, a birth, a funeral — this is the book that will teach us all how to do less of it, and to do it better.
“This topic was perfect for our workplace book club—administrative employees from several departments—and the book allowed for some very interesting discussions about our duties in the workplace, but also about how our skills are translatable to everyday life. LIFE ADMIN provided some great tips and every member took something away. The entire group was intrigued by the idea of taking one task —general admin—and breaking it down into specific types. We found it was applicable to not only our workplace but also our households. Author Elizabeth Emens provided great detail in her text that the group was most appreciative of. It helped us better categorize the areas in our professional and personal lives that we can improve."
The Sisterhood Book Club of Warner Robins, Georgia:
IN ANOTHER TIME by Jillian Cantor (Harper Perennial, 3/19)
A sweeping historical novel that spans Germany, England, and the United States and follows a young couple torn apart by circumstance leading up to World War II—and the family secret that may prove to be the means for survival.
"The title was a perfect match for us. and the author was delightful. We all enjoyed the book tremendously. It is a different take on a Holocaust story. The book had a touch of sci-fi (is that what time travel falls under?). It gave us something new to discuss. What did we think of the possibility of time travel? How might it have changed the story if the wormhole had been used?
“There will be quite a bit of discussion on that with all clubs - because it is so different. The members are already asking when they can read THE HOURS COUNT! Thank you for this exciting opportunity. The members felt special that they got to be one of the first groups to read the book."
North Wales Area Library Cookbook Club, Ohio:
THE BRISKET CHRONICLES: How to Barbecue, Braise, Smoke, and Cure the World's Most Versatile Cut of Meat by Steven Raichlen (Workman, 2019)
Steven Raichlen, “The Julia Child of BBQ” (Los Angeles Times)—shares his 50 best brisket recipes while showing us step-by-foolproof-step how to ’cue it, grill it, smoke it, braise it, cure it, and boil it
“We made two types of ‘traditional’ brisket, baked beans and cookies from recipes in the the cookbook and members provided side dishes to make a delicious experience. ‘Who knew the many ways brisket could be used?’ was a fun discussion topic! We made cookies with brisket, and the group liked them, but NO one expected to! There was brisket in the baked beans and they were so good!
Mish Mash Book Club of Howell, Michigan:
A WOMAN IS NO MAN by Etaf Rum (HarperBooks, 2019)
Three generations of Palestinian-American women living in Brooklyn are torn between individual desire and the strict mores of Arab culture in this powerful debut novel.
"The book sparked an interesting discussion about immigrants in America, timely given the current news context. We were challenged by the idea that immigrants do not necessarily want to embrace 'America', and in the book, feel being American is a detriment. Our book club is outside of Dearborn, Michigan, the largest Middle Eastern community outside of the Middle East, and welcomed the opportunity to read something from a Palestinian perspective, often not represented in Muslim fiction."
“I’m completely captured by this tiny book…It talks about ways to stay creative (in good times and bad.) Full of thoughtful quotes, art and thoughts, this book is one you will read and reread. Who wants to build a Bliss Station with me? What a darling gem of a book!" "A lovely, easy read that reminds you to be kind to yourself and to allow yourself to have fun. It encourages you to seek out your creativity for no other reason than pure enjoyment of the process, regardless of the end product. It would make a great Mother's Day gift! "
Busy Bee Book Club of Taylor, Michigan, and Stories A La Carte Book Club of Centennial, Colorado:
SEE YOU IN THE PIAZZA: New Places to Discover in Italy by Frances Mayes (Crown, March 2019)
A travel narrative that crisscrosses Italy, with inventive new recipes celebrating Italian cuisine.
“We all love Italy. Some of us have visited and some of us will be going in the future. This will be a book we can plan from and travel with! We had a great time looking at Mayes' travels and talking about making them our own and the recipes inspired our Italian themed dinner."
Menu: Lasagna, home made Italian bread, caponata (recipe from the book), wine of course and cannoli for dessert.
"Mayes's recipes and Italian inspiration were fun and delicious. From those who have been to Italy, we heard travel stories. From those who had not yet been, we heard wishes and dreams. The journal-like feel of Mayes's book and reflections on history, writers, architecture, and food made for interesting introductions to new subjects and personalities."
Menu: Vitelli Scottato con Pomodoro Verde In Olio and a chocolate hazelnut dessert inspired by the Torino chapter.
Osterhout Free Library's Franklin Street Sleuths of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania:
THE LIES WE TOLD by Camilla Way (Berkley, 2018)
A novel of dark psychological suspense that explores how those closet to us have the most to hide.
"One member commented, 'We had a lengthy discussion about this book and everyone took part. With 20 people, that's a feat!' Others said: 'I couldn't put it down until it was finished." "You could never find someone who could predict every twist in this book.''It was like a new mystery on every page.'"
Book Bags of New Prague, Minnesota:
PRAISE SONG FOR THE BUTTERFLIES by Bernice McFadden (Akashic Books, 2018)
A young woman must learn to love and trust again after experiencing the brutality of ritual servitude in West Africa.
"We loved PRAISE SONG FOR THE BUTTERFLIES! We love books that use the novel genre to explore historical, cultural, and current world issues. Many of us are former teachers, and we always comment this type of novel would fit into a social studies or current issues classroom. A fictional approach to a practice like trokosi makes the reader sympathize with the victims in a very readable format.”
Menu: "Foods recalled scenes from the book: —Jollof rice —Images of mangoes and oranges, as contrasted to the stark meals that the girls were fed, led to a mango and pineapple —goat cheese with hot pepper jam and bread. We couldn’t forget the goats that started this story! Member Sharon shared authentic African items."
The Bookies of Belmont, Michigan::
IN THE NAME OF THE CHILDREN: An FBI Agent's Relentless Pursuit of the Nation's Worst Predators by Jeffrey L. Rinek and Marilee Strong (BenBella, 2018)
An unflinching look at what it's like to fight a never-ending battle against the predators who seek to harm our children.
Our members are elementary school educators and parents and grandparents of young children. While difficult to read, this book brought up an important topic to be informed about and one that the public should be aware of. Our discussion related to children and families that we have encountered over the years in our teaching careers. The book provided excellent discussion topics: the author's interview technique and how he treated the suspects, PTSD -- a topic we are hearing more about, and bullying. We came away with deeper appreciation for law enforcement agents who work cases of victimized children as well as the victims and their families."
Menu: "One member of our group got creative and made a delicious Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn Navy Bean Salad from her FBI (Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn) cookbook. Since a good portion of the book took place in California, other members brought a California Cobb Salad, Million Dollar Tortilla Roll Ups, Burrito Casserole, and Strawberry Shortcake (with California strawberries). We served two wines: 19 Crimes and Predator. We also said a special prayer to honor the children in the book and others that are still being victimized."
TwentySomething Wine & Book Club of Naperville, Illinois:
TEXT ME WHEN YOU GET HOME by Kayleen Schaefer (Dutton, 2019)
A personal and sociological examination -- and ultimately a celebration -- of the evolution of female friendship in pop culture and modern society.
"We discussed female friendship and how it fit perfectly with our group -- young twenty-somethings who are starting careers and trying to find those good female adult friendships in our lives. Also, modern relationships, how we could feel safe, and how modern times were simultaneously helping us feel stronger and more powerful while also making us feel that men like Brett Kavanaugh and others, are taking power away, power that we felt ensured our safely."